This year marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, which tore through Europe from 1914 to 1918 and took millions of lives with it. Though most people who would remember the event are gone, the Great War still reverberates through our lives even today. In fact, many life-saving medical innovations that we now take for granted were created during that period by field surgeons and nurses who needed to respond quickly to a number of potentially fatal ailments.
Blood transfusions, which help prevent patients from dying of shock or blood loss, started to be used just before the war. It wasn’t until the the war began, though, that the technique was truly put to the test.
Sepsis, an all-too-common hospital malady back then, was beaten with the invention of antiseptics. And though it sounds obvious to us today, it was also during WWI that practicing good hygiene and cleanliness in hospitals became a prominent strategy for disease prevention. Penicillin wasn’t discovered until 1928, a decade after the armistice that ended the war in 1918. But even without antibiotics, WWI surgeons brought us out of medicine’s dark ages.