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Branch of medicine concerned with treatment by physical means rather than drugs. In addition to operations requiring access to the inside of the body (open surgery), it includes manipulation from outside the body (e.g., setting of a broken bone, skin grafts). Modern surgery began in the mid-19th century with use of anesthetics and antiseptics. Other important advances have included diagnostic imaging, blood typing, intubation to support breathing, intravenous administration of fluids and drugs, heart-lung machines (seeartificial heart), endoscopy, and devices that monitor body functions. Specialized instruments used in surgery include scalpels to cut tissue, forceps to hold blood vessels closed or grasp and manipulate structures, clamps to immobilize or crush tissues, gauze sponges to absorb fluids and keep an area dry, retractors to hold incisions open, and curved needles to suture them closed. Pre- and postoperative care is crucial to the success of surgery. See alsomicrosurgery, open-heart surgery, orthopedics, plastic surgery, transplant.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on surgery, visit Britannica.com.