How did people before modern surgery fix broken bones?

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How did people before modern surgery fix broken bones?

In: Technology
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Splints are a pretty basic technology that has been around a long time. More complex breaks would have just left you crippled

For uncomplicated fractures, you don’t need surgery even today. You just hold the bone in the proper place and immobilize it with a cast or a splint until it heals on its own. The same was true long ago. More complicated fractures that required surgery just didn’t heal and would leave some degree of immobility, and compound fractures (where the bone sticks through the skin) of limbs would result in amputation.

Depends on the bone. With bones like arms or legs they would just try their best to put the broken bones properly into place again, bandage it with a splint, then hope for the best. In some cases the bones would heal, although often not correctly, while in some other cases they’d get infected or clotted and the person would die or require amputation. With bones such as ribs, hips, and kneecaps which are more complex to fix there wasn’t much they could do; a person with a broken rib just had to tough it out from then on, a person with a broken hip was crippled, and a broken knee would likely require amputation.

Overall due to the lack of antibiotics and hygiene it was rare for people to survive injuries such as this, even minor ones.

To add, modern medicine rarely actually fixes broken bones. Occasionally you’ll have procedures like screws and bolts inserted, but most of the time it’s just putting the bones back so they’re mostly lined up, wrapping it so it doesn’t move and let the body heal itself.

They set the bones as best they could via touch and then put it in a splint. Bones too severely shattered to be set often resulted in amputation of the limb.

It was also common for people to die from infections, and to suffer abnormalities if the bone was not aligned properly and so did not heal properly.

I was just at the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia and they had a little section about that.

Apparently in the late 1800s there was debate as to whether broken bones should have a stable wrap left on for weeks (like a modern cast) or should be unwrapped and re-bound every day. So an interesting period where people weren’t quite sure what worked and just tried out both ways until they decided that a longer and more stable wrap seemed to get better results.

Not mocking you OP, but I love questions like this. Modern medicine has gotten to the point people just feel like it’s always been that way. What did they do? If it was minor, splint is easy and it healed. If it was bad the person was crippled, if it was REALLY bad (think compound fracture) they probably died (maybe from infection, maybe from blood loss). It’s like those questions “what did we do before vaccines?”. They died. Millions upon millions of people died.

Bones heal themselves. You make sure they’re lined up right, put on something to hold them in place (a splint or a cast), and let nature take its course. If the bone isn’t set straight and heals at the wrong angle, you’re shit out of luck and live the rest of your life with a wonky bone, unless it’s one that can be easily rebroken and corrected. If the break is in an awkward position and can’t be set without surgery, again you’re shit out of luck; it heals wonky and you deal with it.