The twelve-hour tonsillectomy

19th century tonsillectomyUntil fairly recently, tonsillectomy was quite a common procedure – and for many children their first experience of surgery.  Because it’s a straightforward operation, doctors would often recommend that children had their tonsils out even if they had had only a few minor bouts of tonsillitis.  It was even used as a precautionary measure: many of the child migrants to Read more

“Catch anything, darling?” “Only Granny”

Fish-hook headlineThe New-Orleans Medical Journal for 1844 contains this tale of a lucky escape, an ingenious doctor and a very naughty grandson:

In the summer of 1837. Mrs. * * * was enjoying her usual siesta, in the afternoon of a warm day, on a pallet spread upon the floor in a cool part of the house :—and while she was Read more

On leeches, and how to catch them

Leech headlineLeeches were one of the most commonly prescribed medical treatments until the late nineteenth century.  They were a convenient way of taking blood from a patient in days when this was believed a beneficial procedure, and 20 or 30 were often applied at a time:  in one case a woman with bowel problems had no fewer than 400 attached to … Read more

The hearing-aid chair

John Harrison Curtis was a prominent nineteenth-century specialist in diseases of the eyes and ears who became an intimate of the royal family.  He was also, according to some, a quack.  The sixth edition of his medical bestseller, A Treatise on the Physiology and Pathology of the Ear (1836) contains this ingenious invention:

the chair

This chair is intended for the benefit Read more

Your cooker will give you typhoid

There’s a menace lurking in your kitchen.  From The Lancet, 1868:

cast iron

When the attention of the Academy of Sciences of Paris was drawn, some time since, by M. Carret, one of the physicians of the Hotel Dieu of Chambery, in several papers, to the possible evil consequences of the use of cast-iron stoves, but little interest was excited in Read more

The woman who could read with her stomach

Catalepsy

Catalepsy is a strange condition in which the patient keeps a fixed, rigid posture, even one which looks abnormal and uncomfortable.  The limbs often display waxy rigidity, meaning that it is possible to move them into any position without resistance.  It is a typical feature of a catatonic state – in which patients are apparently unresponsive to pain or … Read more

A bit of a headache

dagger skull

One of the things that all first-aiders should know is that blades or other penetrating objects should never be removed from a stab wound.  Extraction should only be attempted by medical professionals in appropriate surroundings, since catastrophic blood loss may otherwise occur.

Those with a background in emergency medicine would doubtless wince at the treatment given to a patient in … Read more