Vascular Surgery in World War II: The Shift to Repairing Arteries

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Abstract

Vascular surgery in World War II has long been defined by DeBakey and Simeone's classic 1946 article describing arterial repair as exceedingly rare. They argued ligation was and should be the standard surgical response to arterial trauma in war. We returned to and analyzed the original records of World War II military medical units housed in the National Archives and other repositories in addition to consulting published accounts to determine the American practice of vascular surgery in World War II. This research demonstrates a clear shift from ligation to arterial repair occurring among American military surgeons in the last 6 months of the war in the European Theater of Operations. These conclusions not only highlight the role of war as a catalyst for surgical change but also point to the dangers of inaccurate history in stymieing such advances.

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