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Macewen, Sir William

surgery bone aseptic methods

[muh kyoo an] (1848–1924) British surgeon: pioneer of aseptic surgery, neurosurgery and orthopaedic surgery.

Macewen was very much a Glaswegian, graduating there in 1869 and afterwards working there until his death. He was a student under at the time antiseptic methods were started in the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, but he soon modified these methods and became a pioneer of aseptic techniques, giving up the carbolic spray by 1879 and using boiling water or steam to sterilize gowns, dressings and surgical instruments. A full surgeon by age 28, his forceful personality allowed him to impose rigorous aseptic routines, and his surgery was bold and effective. In the 1880s he operated on abscesses and tumours of the brain with success; surgery of the skull was ancient, but work on the brain was novel and called for skilful diagnosis and localization and precise surgery. In 1893 he reported on 74 brain operations; 63 succeeded. At the same period he developed successful bone surgery, including bone grafts. His interest in bone growth led to his work on the growth of deer antlers, published when he was over 70; he devised methods and instruments for corrective bone surgery on acute deformities such as those resulting from rickets, then common in Glasgow children.

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