Scientific revolutions and companion animal surgery
In philosophy of science, according to Kuhn*, at times of scientific crisis a revolution starts or an overturn appears, in many cases sharp and forcible; the aim, to introduce a novel working «paradigm», like a set of techniques, values and consolidated knowledge that scientific community espouses at that point in time. This new «paradigm» will collide with the dominant one resulting in the evolution of science since the dominant one is in crisis and does not satisfy the scientific community anymore. The progress, or better the evolution of surgery is not attributable to the accumulation of knowledge, theories and experiences and neither correlates with empirical knowledge. However, it is not only based on the continuous succession of “paradigms” but also interacts with and depends on the developments in society, history of surgery and even on metaphysical ideas. At any time period, surgical knowledge stands alone, is autonomous and can’t be assessed using current scientific criteria.
Companion animal and in general veterinary surgery progressed rapidly following closely the developments in human surgery. This progress was largely based on the introduction of aseptic technique in the operating theatre, antibiotics and the great development of anaesthesiology, intensive care, diagnostic imaging and endoscopy. We finally arrived in the early 21st century where we see a rapid growth of knowledge that is reflected in the exponential increase of articles in scientific journals as well as the number of publications and books in companion animal surgery. In the last 5 years alone, more than 15 books on canine and feline soft tissue surgery and orthopaedics and an equal number on equine surgery were released.
The great scientific revolutions in companion animal surgery that dominate our century have to do with a number of “paradigms” including: the surgical staples that partially replaced sutures and reduced the operative time, laparoscopy and thoracoscopy that guarantee smaller incisions and therefore less pain, the total hip replacement that allows animals with dysplasia to walk almost normally, surgery of the cruciate ligament that restores the functionality of the knee, kidney transplantation in cats that allows nephropathic animals to live a normal life, cardiovascular operations as well as the introduction of stents in stenotic lumens resulting in improved quality of life, the great progress in surgical oncology, the development of neurosurgery which restores limb function of paraplegic animals, developments in diagnostic imaging with the introduction of ultrasonography, computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging to assist soft tissue and orhopaedic surgeons in reaching a diagnosis and of course developments in anaesthesiology, intensive care and pain management. The above developments were born through the action of scientific revolutions which replaced values, techniques and beliefs that at some point the veterinary surgical community ceased to endorse.
Lysimachos G. Papazoglou
Professor of Surgery
School of Veterinary Medicine
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
*T.S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Translation in Greek, Synchrona Themata, Athens 1985.