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R A Cowley, the “Golden Hour,” the “Momentary Pause,” and the “Third Space”

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R Adams Cowley (1917‐1991), the Baltimore thoracic and trauma surgeon, was an outstanding politician and promoter of emergency medical services. His skills included the effective use of language, for example, identifying the critical time immediately after injury as a “golden hour,” and describing shock as a “momentary pause in the act of death.” Conversely, Cowley avoided the tendency of some contemporaries to justify massive crystalloid infusion by invoking a “third space.” Cowley is often assumed to have originated the first two phrases, but, in fact, their histories go back at least to the 19th century and illustrate the development of surgical science. The “third space” is often assumed to have originated with Cowley’s contemporary, Tom Shires (1925‐2007), but, in fact, neither of them used the phrase to describe Shires’ controversial theories about an extracellular fluid deficit after trauma. Reviewing the actual etymology of these terms may help clarify the history of the underlying scientific ideas and enable more effective communication in the future.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Surgery, Maine Medical Center, Portland, Maine, USA

Publication date: December 1, 2017

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  • The Southeastern Surgical Congress owns and publishes The American Surgeon monthly. It is the official journal of the Congress and the Southern California Chapter of the American College of Surgeons, which all members receive each month. The journal brings up to date clinical advances in surgical knowledge in a popular reference format. In addition to publishing papers presented at the annual meetings of the associated organizations, the journal publishes selected unsolicited manuscripts. If you have a manuscript you'd like to see published in The American Surgeon select "Information for Authors" from the Related Information options below. A Copyright Release Form must accompany all manuscripts submitted.
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