Bradford Cannon

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 09 March 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:611

A pioneer in the treatment of burns

Bradford Cannon greatly improved the treatment of severe burns. His advances were famously put to the test when he supervised the treatment of the victims of the Cocoanut Grove fire, which until recently was the United States' largest civil disaster. The Boston nightclub caught fire, trapping 1000 people, in 1942. Half of them died, and many of the survivors were severely injured.

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Cannon, then aged 35, had already made a name for himself in the field of plastic surgery and burns, experimenting with new therapies to treat severe injuries. He had studied and developed techniques of skin harvesting. When the casualties arrived at Massachusetts General Hospital, he discarded the accepted approach of using dyes and tannic acid as the primary treatment for burned tissues, having shown it to be harmful. Instead, he and colleagues used gauze containing boric acid and coated with petroleum …

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