As patients of highly trained and educated modern medical professionals, we expect and trust we will receive the highest level of care. However, before advances in technology and research, doctors administered some bizarre remedies. Here are six strange practices that doctors used to recommend that, for obvious reasons, have been abandoned.
Do you suffer from migraines? Epilepsy? Trepantion might have been performed on you. As described by Robin Wylie of the BBC News, trepanation is a crude surgical procedure that involves forming a hole in the skull of a living person by either drilling, cutting or scraping away layers of bone.
Believed to be an effective treatment for pain, this practice was a fairly common occurrence throughout history. Needless to say, this often proved fatal as exposure of the brain to airborne germs was too much to ward off. Interestingly, this was something that was practiced as recently as 2000 on a woman who suffered from depression and chronic fatigue.
Like trepanation, this one involves getting into one's head, literally. While trepanation was believed to relieve pressure, the idea behind a lobotomy was that obsessive or erratic mental behavior could be attributed to fixed circuits in the brain.
The solution was to sever the connecting fibers of the neurons in activity. This was done by inserting an ice-pick like instrument through the tear duct, breaching the bone, and essentially sweeping from side to side to sever the connections.
Hugh Levinson of the BBC news states that while initially very popular and hailed as a simple solution for a serious problem, lobotomies by the 1950s vastly fell by the wayside in favor for a more proven solution: psychiatric drugs.
According to Gerry Greenstone of the BC Medical Journal, doctors of the medieval period believed in things called “humors.” The word “humors” referred to certain fluids found in the body: blood, yellow bile, black bile and phlegm. “Humorism” was developed from the musings of Greek and Roman physicians who believed an excess or deficiency of any of the four humors would strongly influence a person’s health.
Blood, especially, was believed to be the cause of many ailments. Therefore, doctors would remove large quantities of blood from a person in the hope that it would cure them. Usually, this was done in one of two ways. "Leeching", where leeches would suck the illness out of them, and venesection, where doctors would simply open up a vein and let the blood drain out.
Does reading this have you a little tongue-tied? As detailed in Barbara Goldberg's article on historic treatments for stuttering, a hemiglossectomy might have been right up your alley. Now performed to curtail malignant oral cancer growth, a hemiglossectomy, in which a portion of the tongue is cut off, was once used as a supposed cure for stuttering and other speech impediments.
Performed without anesthesia, the patient would have to endure immense pain. Coupled with failed results and further speech problems (naturally), bleeding to death was also a risk.
Magic of mercury
Evan Andrews of History.com writes that mercury was once used and often prescribed for a whole host of ailments, to heal wounds and even thought to prolong life. Most recently, mercury was used for cavity fillings until it was discovered that those fillings were slowly poisoning your bloodstream — and possibly making your teeth fall out.
Extract of tomato
According to the Health Sciences Institute, early in the 1800s, it was believed that tomatoes were poisonous.
However, in 1834, there was a paper published claiming that tomatoes could treat digestive problems like diarrhea, cholera and indigestion. Three years later, a man name Archibald Miles started producing and selling "Dr. Miles Compound Extract of Tomato." Or in other words, ketchup. The cure was ketchup. Burger, anyone?
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