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George Washington Crile

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For his son, also a surgeon, see George Crile, Jr. For his grandson, the CBS journalist, see George Crile III.

George Washington Crile (November 11, 1864 - January 7, 1943) was an American surgeon. Crile is now formally recognized as the first surgeon to have succeeded in a direct blood transfusion. He contributed to other procedures, such as neck dissection. Crile designed a small hemostatic forceps which bears his name; the Crile mosquito clamp. He also described a technique for using opioids, regional anesthesia and general anesthesia which is a concept known as balanced anesthesia. He is also known for co-founding the Cleveland Clinic in 1921.

Table of contents
  1. Early life
  2. Career
  3. Publications
  4. Honors
  5. Personal life

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Portrait of George Washington Crile

Early life

Crile was born in Chili, Ohio. He graduated from Ohio Northern University in 1885. In 1887, he received his M.D. from Wooster Medical College which merged to form modern day Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. He did further study at Vienna, London and Paris.


He taught at Wooster from 1889 to 1900. He was professor of clinical medicine at Western Reserve University from 1900 to 1911, and was then made professor of surgery. He was chair of surgery at University Hospitals Case Medical Center from 1910 to 1924, and established its Lakeside Hospital. Crile was responsible for whole blood transfusion, in 1906, and he spurred the use of the new X-ray machines.

During the Spanish-American War, he was made a member of the Medical Reserve Corps and served in Puerto Rico (1898). He was made an honorable F.R.C.S. (London) in 1913. After America entered World War I, he became a major in the medical O.T.C., and professional director (1917-18). He served with the British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F.) in France and was senior consultant in surgical research (1918-19). He was made lieutenant-colonel in June 1918, and colonel later in the year.

He made important contributions to the study of blood pressure and of shock in operations. Realizing that any strong emotion, such as fear before operation, produced shock, he attempted to allay dread by psychic suggestion, also endeavouring to prevent the subjective shock which affects the patient, even when under general anaesthesia, by first anaesthetizing the operative region with cocaine for several days, if necessary, before operating. Thus nerve communication between the affected part and the brain was already obstructed when the general anaesthetic was administered. For his work in shockless surgery he received a gold medal from the National Institute of Social Sciences in 1914.

When he retired from the Medical School at age 65, Crile went into private practice and worked with those establishing the new Cleveland Clinic.



Personal life

He married Grace Elizabeth McBride (1876-1948), a sister of David Reed. His son, George Crile, Jr., was also a surgeon. His grandson George Crile III was a journalist, author, and CBS producer.

He died on January 7, 1943, in Cleveland. He is buried in Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio.

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