Advancements in the Medical Field from WWI to Today

Posted on Wednesday, September 3, 2014 by Ryan Mahoney

Ryan Mahoney is a Product Development Engineer and the Medical Product Lead at Alpha Wire.

Advancements in the medical field have come a long way in the last century and on a scale never before seen. Surprisingly, many of these advancements can be attributed to warfare, beginning with World War I. The Great War saw the rise of modern prosthetic limbs, updated techniques for reconstructive surgery, and the precursor to the modern electrocardiograph machine – the Willem Einthoven’s string galvanometer.


World War II saw even greater rate of advancement, so much so that infantry were about 25 times more likely to recover from their wounds. This is accredited to more timely treatment, thanks in part to mobile field hospitals as well as the transport of personnel using airplanes and ambulances that were outfitted with mobile, although certainly not compact, medical devices, such as blood transfusion and monitoring systems.


Also during this period cardiac or open-heart surgery was developed which was followed shortly thereafter by organ transplantation. This medical technological advancement, borne out of military necessity, has trickled over to the private sector.  Progressively, these advances have since been improved and miniaturized over the decades to become stand-alone portable systems. This includes ECG, EKG, and ultrasonic imaging systems to name just a few.


Fast forward to today, robots are assisting in or even performing complex surgery. Tiny micro-devices outfitted with video and fiber optic cameras give surgeons an unprecedented view of internal organs, resulting in minimally invasive repairs which provide better success rates and reduced recovery times. Remote surgery has also been developed, whereby doctors can perform operations from a different location than the patient using high definition cameras and robotic surgeons controlled by their human counterparts with surgical tool inputs over a secured internet connection.  With this rapid medical technology advancement, it makes one wonder what capabilities the technology of tomorrow will offer.


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