History of the hypodermic needle

hypodermic needles

The ancient Greeks and Romans knew injection as a method of medicinal delivery from observations of snakebites and poisoned weapons. There are also references to “anointing” and “inunction” in the Old Testament as well as the works of Homer, but injection as a legitimate medical tool was not truly explored until the 17th century. Christopher Wren performed the earliest confirmed experiments with crude hypodermic needles, performing intravenous injection into dogs in 1656. These experiments consisted of using animal bladders (as the syringe) and goose quills (as the needle) to administer drugs such as opium intravenously to dogs. Wren and others’ main interest was to learn if medicines traditionally administered orally would be effective intravenously. In the 1660s, J.D. Major of Kiel and J.S. Elsholtz of Berlin were the first to experiment with injections in humans. These early experiments were generally ineffective and in some cases fatal. Injection fell out of favor for two centuries.

hypodermic needleThe 19th century saw the development of medicines that were effective in small doses, such as opiates and strychnine. This spurred a renewed interest in direct, controlled application of medicine. Dr. Alexander Wood of Edinburgh is generally credited with the first successful injection in 1853. Wood’s main contribution was the all-glass syringe, which allowed the user to estimate dosage based on the levels of liquid observed through the glass. Wood used hypodermic needles and syringes primarily for the application of localized, subcutaneous injection (localized anesthesia) and therefore was not as interested in precise dosages. Simultaneous to Dr. Wood’s work in Edinburgh, Dr. Charles Pravaz of Lyon also experimented with sub-dermal injections in sheep using a needle of his own design. Pravaz designed a needle measuring 3 cm (1.18 in) long and 5 mm (0.2 in) in diameter; the syringe was entirely in silver,. Dr. Charles Hunter, a London surgeon, is credited with the coining of the term “hypodermic” to describe subcutaneous injection in 1858. The name originates from two Greek words: “hypo” meaning under and “dermic” meaning skin. Furthermore, Hunter is widely credited with acknowledging the systemic effects of injection after noticing that a patient’s pain was alleviated regardless of the injection’s proximity to the pained area. Hunter and Wood were involved in lengthy legal disputes over not only the origin of the modern hypodermic needle, but also because of their disagreement to the medicine’s effect once administered. Via Hypodermic needle

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