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Thursday, September 27, 2018

Under the Knife: The History of Surgery in 28 Remarkable Operations


Under the Knife: The History of Surgery in 28 Remarkable Operations by Arnold Van de Laar showed up in a search for new books on Netgalley and the blurb grabbed me. 

In the history of medicine, surgery has not always been the hot ticket residency position we currently see in shows like Grey’s Anatomy or whatnot. In fact, it was considered a specialty that doctors ran from, and certain surgeries weren’t even classified as such in order to avoid correlating the knife with the huge risk of death. It wasn’t until, for example, cleanliness improved and a surgeon realized he could cut out his own bladder stone a different way and not bleed out that the diagnosis began releasing pain in so many afflicted. As sanitation increased tremendously and medicine improved, surgery has taken on a life of its own, and it has both saved and ended lives. This historical look at 28 operations that defined the field will change the way you see the process. 

This book is incredibly interesting, drawing on so much history both medical and not. It covers a range of historical figures and what happened to them — popes, European royalty, American politicians — and analyzes what happened, why, and how it could have been different if we knew then what we know now. This book can be incredibly detailed at times, and informative albeit clinical. I love the interweaving of historical figures and the surgeries that saved them, or just could have, and I took a good chunk of information away from this, including the technicality of death via gunshot. (Want to know what that is? Pick up the book!)

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