Gangrene And Flesh Eating Maggots In The American Civil War
- This 1860’s photo was used as a teaching aid in medical schools. National Library of Medicine
The biggest killer in the U.S Civil War was not instant death by bullet or by cannonball: it was disease resulting from wounds. An estimated 388,500 men died from wounds and other illnesses, including gangrene. Doctors with dirty hands unknowingly infected wounds with gangrene-causing bacteria while trying to treat the injured soldiers.
Gangrene is a condition in which living tissue (skin, muscle, or bone) dies and decays. Gangrene most often affects the legs, feet, arms, and fingers, but it also can affect internal organs such as the intestine or gallbladder. Gangrene can occur when blood flow to an area of the body is blocked or when certain types of bacteria * invade a wound.
During the war, doctors noticed that the wounds of some of the soldiers were infested with maggots, which are the larvae of houseflies or blowflies. Those maggot-infested wounds tended to heal faster than those without maggots, because the maggots were eating the dead or decaying tissue that resulted from gangrene infection. Thus, the maggots were cleaning out the dead and decaying tissue, allowing the remaining tissue to heal. They were doing the work that surgeons do today to treat gangrene through Debridement of wounds.
Read more: http://www.humanillnesses.com/original/E-Ga/Gangrene.html#ixzz38QJYnLRQ