Historical Medical Procedures
In the early days of medicine, what did practitioners call the practice of boring a hole into the patient's skull to relieve pressure or treat intracranial diseases?
- Evidence of trepanning exists all the way back in the Neolithic Age, where some skulls bear evidence of holes scraped through the bone. Medieval doctors also practiced trephination as a form of brain surgery.
The ancient Greeks had many interesting (and often fallacious) ideas about human anatomy and illness. What did physicians and philosophers blame for causing hysteria, sluggishness, vertigo, and general stubbornness in a woman?
- Figures like Plato, Hippocrates, and Aretaeus of Cappadocia all considered the womb (or uterus) to be a mobile organ that moved around the abdomen cavity at will. Treatments included sitting on a pessary filled with sweet smoke to lure it back down.
What is the procedure called that involves inserting a sharp pick or drill between the inner eye socket and the eyeball to sever the connection between the frontal lobe and thalamus, in order to eliminate mental illness?
- This "cure" was frequently used and often without the patient's complete consent, with family members able to submit a problematic relative for the operation, which is what happened to President JFK's sister, Rosemary Kennedy.
To remove possible bad fluids and rebalance the humors of the body, including blood, bile, and phlegm, what was this common practice called, used for thousands of years and into the 19th century?
- Believed to cure disease or prevent illness, physicians could use scalpels, blades, or even leeches to remove blood from a vein or artery, usually at the inner elbow or behind the knee.
What was the procedure for removing bladder stones called, referred to by ancient Greek, Hindu, Persian, and Roman texts, that involved a perineal incision into the organ and scraping them out?
- Unsurprisingly, this prolonged and agonizing procedure to remove bladder stones was soon discontinued, due to the 50% mortality rate that accompanied it.
As syphilis spread in Italy during the 16th century, in part due to the Columbian Exchange, what was a method for treating the "saddle-nose" symptom, when the infected patient's nose bridge collapsed?
- The patient would have to exist in a contraption that kept their upper arm elevated as it was still attached to the nasal graft site, to prevent the skin from being rejected, for around three weeks until it was successful.
During the waning years of the 19th century, what was a popular blood substitute for transfusions in the United States?
- The first cow's milk transfusion happened in Canada during 1854, but was most common in the US between the years 1873 and 1880, with cow, goat, and even human breast milk being used to replace blood in the body.
Cholera was a disease that ravaged the world in the past, including several pandemics of the disease. What was considered a successful treatment for this illness during the 1800s?
- Believed to be a better treatment than the typical opium remedy, either a pessary of tobacco smoke or boiling tobacco-infused water would be applied to the patient's intestines— internally.
The practice of clinical xenotransplantation has been studied since the 17th century, but during the 1920s, the Russian doctor Serge Voronoff promoted the reinvigoration of older men by transplanting which organ?
- Dr. Voronoff thought that splicing an elderly patient's reproductive organs with that of a chimpanzee or baboon would have rejuvenation effects and prolong the individual's lifespan and reproductivity.
Which of the following ailments did Medieval doctors believe the best method of treatment was by using red-hot irons to burn them away?
- If the patient suffered from severe hemmeriods, Medieval physicians would often remove them by applying iron tongs that had been heated directly in an open flame.