The Surgery With the 300% Mortality Rate

For most of his medical career Robert Liston (born in 1794 in Scotland) was a well-regarded and competent surgeon. His surgical skills were phenomenal, with much lower mortality rates than most of his fellow physicians.

The reason for Dr. Liston’s low mortality rate was his incredible speed when performing surgeries. Since there was no anesthesia in his day and limited means for controlling bleeding during surgery, a surgeon’s speed could mean the difference between surviving an operation or bleeding out before it was finished. Liston was known as the “fastest knife on the West End”- the West End was the fashionable area of London in which he worked. He was known to tell spectators in his operating room to time him to see how fast he could finish an operation. Because of his speed and skill, his mortality rate during surgery was only about 10% at a time when the average surgical mortality rate was closer to 25%.

all-that-is-interesting.com

During one surgery, though, Dr. Liston had some incredibly bad luck, and it is this mishap that has been remembered more than his many successes.

Dr. Liston was getting ready to amputate a patient’s leg at the hip. According to bystander reports, he was so focused on speed that when he brought his surgical blade down he also cut off the fingers of his assistant. In the confusion that resulted after this accident, Dr. Liston also cut through the dress coat of an elderly doctor who was observing the surgery.

Dr. Liston did not actually cut the older man, but it gave him a severe fright. Seeing all the blood, he must have thought he had been sliced open. The terrified man then fell to the floor, had a massive heart attack, and died on the spot.

If this had been the only death to result from this surgery, we might not be talking about it today. Unfortunately for Dr. Liston, this botched operation would claim two more lives. Within days of the surgery, the original patient’s stump became gangrenous and he died. The surgical instrument he used must have been contaminated somehow because his assistant- the one who lost his fingers- also died from an infection shortly thereafter. This is the only surgery ever recorded to have a 300% mortality rate.

Given this horrible incident, it is not surprising that Dr. Liston became the first surgeon in Europe to use ether to sedate a patient. If you ever need surgery, you can thank Dr. Liston for helping to popularize the use of anesthesia. It’s just unfortunate that he will forever be remembered for causing three deaths while operating on one person.

Next Article
ADVERTISEMENT
  • Let’s Nuke The Moon Just Because We Can

    Any guesses to who once said that? Yup, you guessed it… The United States once planned to shoot a nuclear bomb at the moon for the sole reason of “Because We Can!” The absolute ridiculous project was put into action during the 1950s by the U.S. Air Force and was...

    Read More
  • The Biggest Spread Of Plague Was Not Caused By Rats

    New studies have shown that rats have been unfairly accused of being the main culprit of causing the immense spread of plague during the time known as the Black Death. Initially, the rats were believed to have spread the plague so severely during 14th century Central Europe due to them...

    Read More
  • The First Medieval North American City

    Cahokia was a settlement that thrived during the years of A.D. 1050-1200, a city that held a population of 10000 to 20000 people and covered over six square miles. This made it bigger than even London at the time and numerous other European cities. It was located in Mississippi, close...

    Read More
  • Twenty-Two Years Of Poop Removed Surgically From One Man

    Remember that last time you could not go to the toilet? You just sat there in agony, with just nothing coming out? Or that constipated bloated sensation that never goes away, well now think that you have had that feeling for wait for it... 22 whole years. Impossible, right? Yes, one Chinese man has defied...

    Read More
  • Yes, There Was A Black Nazi

    Meet Hans Massaquoi, one of the very rare and few biracial Germans who were born and grew up during the Nazi regime. Though do not be mislead by the photo, he was not actually allowed to join the Nazi Party. This does not really make much sense when you remember...

    Read More
  • Marijuana Farms Are Killing Owls

    In California the great marijuana legalization growing revolution is having some dire consequences to the local ecosystem, notably, it seems to be killing Northern spotted owls! Unfortunately the profitable of the marijuana legalization vote in California has seen the rise of numerous unpermitted private grow sites. These grow sites are...

    Read More
  • Napoleon’s Biggest Loss Was Against A Horde Of Rabbits

    Napoleon Bonaparte, the famous French emperor who dominated European and even global affairs for over a decade from 1804 to 1814. Renown for being one of the greatest military commanders ever to rule, his campaigns and victories are still studied around the world today. He won the vast majority of his battles, which means his...

    Read More