While a broken bone today can be a nuisance, in the early 20th century, it would be a serious, if not deadly, injury.
People knew from ancient times to immobilize broken bones with a splint or a brace. Later, bone setters were used to move the bone into place before immobilization. The location of the fracture determined how difficult, and how painful, the procedure would be.
Wrapping the bone in plaster began in the 18th century. Limbs were often put in traction before being set, pulling the bone back into place.
Soldiers who were shot in the femur suffered an 80 percent mortality rate at the beginning of World War One. Techniques used for fracture treatment, such as the use of antiseptics and stabilizing wounds before transport, reduced the mortality rate to 20 percent by the war’s end.
Surgery was a worse-case scenario and generally reserved for open factures and severe compound factures. Amputations had a 75 percent mortality rate in the 18th century. Infection was the cause of the high mortality rate. Methods of controlling bleeding often led to other severe problems that in turn caused death.
Even those who did not have their limbs amputated, but suffered from severe factures, often died of infection.
In the 19th century, wires, metal plates and screws began being used to stabilize some fractures. The use of these instruments greatly reduced the need for amputation while increasing the rate of those who survived with a limp or physical deformity.
Have you ever broken a bone? Leave a comment below.
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