When you're sick, you want the best, most advanced treatment available. Sometimes, those procedures are thousands of years old! Here's a look at some ancient medical practices still used today!
Bloodletting is considered one of the oldest medical procedures. Thought to have originated in either ancient Egypt or Sumeria, it spread to Greece and Rome before moving to India and the Arab world were the practice flourished. Ancient physicians like Hippocrates and Galen believed that all illness stemmed from an overabundance of blood. While this practice could result in accidental death due to blood loss, bloodletting was a common medical practice well into the 19th century.
Bloodletting is still used today, although now it's called therapeutic phlebotomy. It's primarily used in the treatment for conditions that cause an excess accumulation of iron in the body, such as hemochromatosis, porphyrias, and polycythemia.
Bee Venom Therapy
Bee venom therapy or Apitherapy, was used medicinally in the ancient civilizations of China, India, Egypt, Babylon, and Greece. Hippocrates used pulverized bees and bee stings to treat arthritis and other joint problems.
Hungarian physician Bodog Beck coined the term "bee venom therapy" and a beekeeper from Vermont, Charles Mrazis is credited with the recent popularity in Apitherapy. Promoted as having a range of health benefits, including treating multiple sclerosis, arthritis, fatigue, and gout. There is conflicting scientific evidence as to the effectiveness of bee venom therapy.
Cauterization can be traced back to the Hippocratic Corpus in the 5th century. Early physicians would use a hot metallic instrument to burn tissue, either to remove a part of the body or to close off a wound. Cauterization was used to stop bleeding and infection or to remove cancerous tumors. Although this treatment will stop the bleeding, it also increased the patients risk of infection.
Physicians today use two different types of cauterization; Chemical cauterization and electrocauterization. Chemical cauterization uses chemicals such as silver nitrate or liquid nitrogen to heat or cool the tissue. Electorcauterization heats the affected tissue with a small instrument that produces an electric current.
The practice of boring or drilling a hole into the skull to treat brain injuries is called trepanation. One of the oldest forms of surgery, and probably the most gruesome, scientist have discovered trepanned skulls across the globe that date as far back as 7,000 years ago. The practice was used to treat a variety of ailments including brain swelling, mental disorders, epilepsy or to treat head wounds. Skulls that have been found with multiple holes show that many patients lived for years after the surgery. Some estimate the survival rate from 50 to 90 percent.
Trepanation is still used today to treat epidural and subdural hematomas, and for surgical access for other neurosurgical procedures. Modern surgeons use the term craniotomy for this procedure. When the removed piece of skull is not replaced, this procedure is called a craniectomy.
Inoculation is the introduction of a pathogen to stimulate an individual's immune system causing an immunity to a disease. It's known that the Chinese practiced inoculation for smallpox in the 10th century. An 8th century Indian book contains a chapter on smallpox inoculations and Buddhist monks would drink snake venom to build an immunity to snake bites. Inoculation spread from the Ottoman Empire to Europe and America. One way they may of inoculated a patient was by scratching material from a smallpox pustule into the skin of a healthy person. This generally produced a less severe infection than naturally acquired smallpox, but still built immunity.
Maurice Hilleman was the most prolific vaccine inventor, developing vaccines for chickenpox, hepatitis A and B, measles, mumps, meningitis, pneumonia, and haemophilus influenzae.
In modern times, the World Health Organization targeted smallpox for eradication, with the last naturally occurring case of smallpox occurring in 1977.
The common myth is that the name was derived from the surgical birth of Julius Caesar. This is unlikely since his mother, Aurelia, is reputed to have been alive for her son's invasion of Britain. There are numerous references to cesarean sections in ancient writings from Egypt, Greece, Rome and Ancient China. There are rare references to the operation being performed on living women, but surgery was performed only when the mother was dead or dying, as an attempt to save the baby. Cesarean sections were not intended to preserve the mother's life.
In 1794, Dr. Jesse Bennett was the first physician in America to successfully perform a cesarean section on his wife Elizabeth, she lived for 36 more years.
In the US today, about one in three births happen by cesarean section, with about 23 million performed globally.
The first mention of reconstructive surgery for a broken nose can be found in the Edwin Smith Papyrus, an Ancient Egyptian medical text from 3000 BC to 2500 BC.
The most well-known contribution to plastic surgery was the Sushruta Samhita written by the physician Sushruta. Commonly dated to the 6th century BC, the text contains a detailed description on reconstructing a nose. The ancient Greek and Roman physicians performed minor procedures, such as repairing damaged ears and scar removal.
Sir Harold Gillies is considered the father of modern plastic surgery. During the First World War, he developed many of the techniques used for modern facial surgery.
Ethical aspects of Ottoman surgical practices
Cesarean part 1
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I've been a Licensed Massage Therapist since 2006. In my free time I enjoy hiking with my husband and dog. I also have a passion for cooking, baking and gardening.