An extraordinary surgical operation

Last week I came across an article which took my breath away. It was published in 1858, in an American journal, the Medical and Surgical Reporter, and it describes an operation of such audacity and skill that I can’t believe it isn’t better known. This is how it was reported: At the request of a … Continue reading An extraordinary surgical operation

Like finding a needle in a pharynx

In November 1828 several English-language journals picked up a case which had appeared in the Revue Medicale, a French medical journal, the previous month. It begins promisingly: A man, aged twenty-five years, was irritating his nostril with a needle… As you do. …when by some accident he suffered it to enter the nostril through which … Continue reading Like finding a needle in a pharynx

Spirits go straight to your head

I recently stumbled across this intriguing snippet in John Cooke’s A Treatise on Nervous Diseases (1824): I am informed by Mr. Carlisle, that “a few years since a man was brought dead into the Westminster Hospital who had just drunk a quart of gin for a wager. The evidences of death being quite conclusive, he was immediately examined; and … Continue reading Spirits go straight to your head

The man who peed a bullet

Gunshot wounds have always been a particular challenge for the medic. Some of the oldest surgical manuals contain advice on removing balls or bullets lodged superficially – it was often possible to remove missiles from soft tissue or bone near the skin. But if they had penetrated deeper into body cavities or damaged internal organs … Continue reading The man who peed a bullet

Sleeping with the fishes

One of the overwhelming priorities of medicine in the eighteenth century was the improvement of resuscitation methods. Drowning was a major cause of death, and physicians realised they needed better emergency procedures to treat those who had fallen into rivers, canals and lakes. Medical societies were set up in several European countries to investigate possible … Continue reading Sleeping with the fishes

Better late than never

Today’s medical journals pride themselves on their topicality, publishing the latest research as soon as it’s available – but those news values did not apply in 1845, when the Provincial Medical and Surgical Journal agreed to publish a case report almost half a century old. It was sent to them by a retired surgeon, William … Continue reading Better late than never

Evacuated with a spoon

In 1836 a doctor from rural Ireland, J.L. McCarthy, encountered a highly unusual case which he then reported to The Lancet.  The journal deemed it worthy of publication, although it is unlikely that many of its readers would ever need to know how to treat a patient suffering from this particular complaint: On Thursday, the … Continue reading Evacuated with a spoon