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Surgery is perhaps the oldest of all medical specialties. Evidence from ancient Egypt, Greece, China, and India suggests that humans have always performed and worked on developing surgical procedures.

The field of surgery advanced during the 18th century when knowledge of anatomy increased through developments in pathology. At this time, common procedures included amputations as well as tumor and bladder stone removal. Surgery patients were usually tied down or sedated with alcoholic beverages or opium during the procedures.

The late 19th century brought major developments that advanced surgical procedures. Anesthesia was introduced in 1846. Also, Louis Pasteur's understanding of bacteria later resulted in the development of antiseptic by Joseph Lister in 1867. The introduction of anesthesia coupled with the use of antiseptic methods resulted in the new phase of modern surgery.

Surgical advances during the 20th and early 21st century include the separation of surgical specialties, the development of surgical tools and X-rays, as well as continued technological advances that create alternatives to traditional procedures such as laproscopic surgery with lasers. Another recent breakthrough is robotic surgery, in which a surgeon uses a computer to control a robotic arm to perform certain types of surgical procedures (such as coronary artery bypass; cutting away cancer tissue from sensitive parts of the body such as blood vessels, nerves, or important body organs; and hip replacement).

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