Five Advances That Have Revolutionized Medicine Since 1948S

Click to view Britain's National Health Service was created 60 years ago, so the BBC asked a bunch of doctors for their opinions on the most revolutionary changes to medicine in that time. The list they created reveals that the outlandish science-fiction of 1948 is commonplace today.The way we treat our health problems has been utterly transformed in the last six decades - here's how.

Heart Surgery - Open heart surgery hasn't simply improved since 1948. Back then, it wasn't even possible. Before heart and lung bypass machines, doctors cooled the patient with ice (pictured above) to get a few seconds when they could work on the heart without causing death. Now we can repair and even replace entire structures within the heart, or transplant the heart itself.

Reconstructive Surgery - Microsurgery is the key to successfully reconnecting or rebuilding damaged body parts. Joining the tiny blood vessels speeds healing and makes grafts assimilate better. Now we can repair areas damaged by tumors or injuries with skin, muscle and bone from other parts of the body.

Outpatient Surgery - We have become so good at certain procedures that what used to require a two-week hospital stay (and all the expense and discomfort that entails) now doesn't even require an overnight visit. From the point of view of both patients and hospital administrators, the benefit to the bottom line has had a huge impact on medical care.

Cochlear Implants - The lives of people with certain types of deafness have been vastly improved by these devices, which are essentially bionic ears. By sending audio information as electrical signals through the cochlea and into the auditory nerve, a cochlear implant allows someone who may have previously heard very little to make out speech and other sounds in quiet environments.

Specialization - The typical doctor of 1948 was a general practitioner or generalist surgeon who treated a wide variety of medical problems, but was not necessarily an expert in any of them. Today, doctors are branched into fine specialties, allowing for greater expertise and more intense research into certain areas. Many of these advances would not have happened without increased specialization. Image by: National Institutes of Health.

A 60-year revolution in surgery. [BBC News]