Paradigm Shift: Trauma Surgery in World War I

Thumbnail Image
Taylor, Lauren Marie
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
The appalling carnage of World War I forced a “paradigm shift” in trauma medicine. The idea of a paradigm shift is taken from Thomas Kuhn, who argued that science does not advance via slow, steady progress. Rather, an entirely new system of knowledge appears (such as that provided by Copernicus) that sweeps away previous conceptions in one swoop. In 1914, European militaries employed a casualty evacuation strategy that was little different than what Napoleon utilized. The war forced a radical change that included (1) a complicated, stage-by-stage evacuation and assessment protocol, (2) new procedures for dealing with stomach wounds and infection, (3) the invention of plastic surgery, and (4) the development of modern psychiatry, particularly as it relates to PTSD. The system developed in WWI still provides the paradigm for modern trauma surgery in both the civilian and military sphere today.
World War I, medical history, shell-shock, Harold Gillies, paradigm shifts, Thomas Kuhn, military history, PTSD, pastic surgery