History of anesthesiology and pain medicine

Since 2007 historiographic methodology was used to conduct two research projects. One was a medical history project on infectiology. The other can be assigned to the field of historical fundamentals of anesthesiology. Both were accomplished in collaboration with the Institut für Geschichte der Medizin der Charité (Prof. Volker Hess).

 

From 2007 to 2012 the influenza pandemics of the 20th century (1918-20, 1957/58, 1968-70) as well as the 1976 „swine flu“ outbreak were examined to investigate the impact of influenza vaccination in Germany. International parallels and differences were elaborated. In each case the exchange of expert opinion was contrasted to contemporary public reaction to the pandemic scenarios.

 

From 2009 to 2014 the concept of "translational medicine" was the basis of an academic study of the history of pain therapy. The focus was the emergence of chronic pain management in both West and East Germany from 1945 to 1990. Translational medicine operates on the principle of applying natural science findings to medical practice. The term translational medicine was extended for the purposes of historiographic debate, and three aspects were analyzed: transnational transfer, translation as scientific transfer and cultural translation. The focus of transnational impact was so-called "Americanization." Scientific transfer covered not only the clinical development of basic research approaches, but also practice-based therapeutic approaches. It was shown that the notion that biocybernetic control processes were the standards for the occurrence and treatment of chronic pain had gained acceptance since the 1950s. Finally, cultural translation was investigated, i.e. traditional thinking and current perceptions in medical circles and the general public were scrutinized for their importance in the emergence of chronic pain therapy in Germany. This highlights the relationship between mind and body.

 

Planned projects include an investigation of the connection between the Encephalitis lethargica epidemic of the 1920s and influenza: how was sleep pathology, which gave the name to the illness, integrated into scientific explanatory models in the early 20th century? In particular, the so-called Spanish flu in 1918-20 often led to cases of acute lung failure. Development of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) came much later. The issue of which conditions had to prevail in order for the development of ECMO to be placed on the agenda is to be treated in a second study. Finally, research on pain therapy history is to be intensified by weighing models of pain in pain therapy against those of hypnosis (sleep) in anesthesiology and analyzing their interconnections.

Contact

PD Dr. med. Wilfried Witte | Oberarzt | t: +49 30 450 551 525