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Although surgical amputations date back at least to the time of Hippocrates (c.460-375 B.C.), amputating limbs to save lives did not become widespread until the sixteenth century. Many of the advances in amputation surgery were made by military surgeons during the course of wars. In 1529, French military surgeon Ambroise Paré rediscovered the use of ligation, in which a thread-like or wire material is used to tie off, or constrict, blood vessels. This surgical technique, which stops the flow of blood from a severed vein, greatly reduces the patient's chances of bleeding to death and helped to make amputation a viable surgical approach.

The introduction of the tourniquet in 1674 further advanced surgical amputation. Essentially, a tourniquet is a circling device that is wrapped around the limb above the area to be amputated and then twisted to apply pressure to stop the flow of blood.

In 1867, Lord Lister's introduction of antiseptic techniques to surgery further advanced amputation. Antiseptics, such as iodine and chloride, reduced the chances of infection by inhibiting the growth of infectious agents such as bacteria. Other advances at this time included the use of chloroform and ether as anesthetics to reduce pain and keep the patient unconscious during surgery.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Ambiguity - Ambiguity to Anticolonialism in Middle East - Ottoman Empire And The Mandate SystemAmputation - History, Reasons For Amputation, Levels And Goals Of Amputation, Prosthetics And Limb Reattachment, Phantom Limb