Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Medicine of War
Picture from Wikipedia.
War. What's it good for? Absolutely nothing. Or so the song tells us.
But there is something it is good for. Medical advancement.
During World War 1, horrendous facial injuries had to be treated. Plastic surgery, as a field of medicine, came into being. Not the plastic surgery of today where people want Angelina Jolie lips or Dolly Parton mammaries. But reconstructive plastic surgery, to replace noses, cheek bones, repair hideous burns. Although physicians had attempted to treat deformities and injuries prior to WW1, it was war that really made this area expand into what we know it as today. It developed as a result of needing to improve the function of soldiers and to also give them some semblance of normalcy.
The field of psychiatry received a boost as a result of the high incidence of "shell shock", what we commonly refer to as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder today. We know now that you need not be in a war to suffer from PTSD. But it was another of the contributions to medicine from WW 1. Triage, as we know it today, was formalized during WW 1. Sulfa drugs were used extensively until the advent of penicillan during WW 2. The Korea Conflict saw the first use of helicopters to transfer wounded and the beginning of the use of an artificial kidney machine.
Most recently, with the conflict in the Middle East, a rise in the incidence of head injuries and amputations has occurred. Because of quick assessment, first aid treatment, and transport, more of these injured soldiers are surviving than ever before. Stateside, however, treatment must be continued. And this is where medical advances are being made. Injured soldiers must be given proper and timely treatment to get them back to a civilian life or a return to the military. Developments in prosthetics, rehabilitation, and psychiatry meant for military personnel will trickle down to the civilian population. Current studies by the U.S. government into alternative treatments will also prove to be a benefit. And most recently was announced a study into the incidence of MS among the military population since the first Gulf War (it is suspected that chemical warfare may have contributed to the number of MS cases).
I do not expect to find THE cause of MS from the oil fields of Kuwait. But it may give us an insight into the pathogenesis of the disease. And as you know, I am collecting more pieces of this puzzle.