The seven-foot tumour

monstrous wombThis brief case report is a reminder that there are certain medical horrors which were once commonplace but which are never seen today in the developed world. Untreatable conditions would progress unhindered, often resulting in terrible deformity. Tumours could reach a size almost unimaginable to the modern mind – although in developing countries such cases do, sadly, still arise.

This … Read more

Unfortunate injury of the decade

wound of penisHere’s a story published 150 years ago in the British Medical Journal which made me wince on at least four separate occasions. At a seminar at the Liverpool Medical Institution in January 1863, the cases presented for discussion included the following:

Dr. Nottingham brought forward a case of extraordinary wound of the penis. He said it was more properly a Read more

Impaled on a stake

Recovery from accidentHow about this for a lucky escape?  It’s the sort of grisly farm accident which might be featured in a medical documentary like 24 Hours in A&E, with one significant difference. Anybody unlucky enough to be impaled by a stake today could expect major surgery and a lengthy hospital stay – but this patient made a total recovery after … Read more

There was an old woman who swallowed a fork…

swallowing of a forkIn 1868 the Medical and Surgical Reporter contained a report of an unusual case received from the physicians of the insane asylum at Zutphen, a town in the Netherlands.

The patient was a woman 64 years old, affected with lypemania…

Lypemania is an archaic term, meaning an excessive fondness for melancholy. Today a patient suffering from these symptoms would probably … Read more

Somewhat silly in his manner

Singular case of foreign object in the bladderFans of nominative determination – the idea that a person’s name can have a bearing on their choice of career – may enjoy this little tale from the Virginia Medical Journal, reported in 1857.  It concerns a urologist from Guy’s Hospital, one Mr Cock.  Stop giggling at the back:

Mr. Cock, at Guy’s, has recently had more than one Read more

Trouble at t’mill

Remarkable case of a lacerated woundLast week I revealed the dangers of working in the mirror manufacturing trade in 19th-century Bohemia.  Here’s another tale of occupational peril, published in The Western Journal of the Medical and Physical Sciences in 1833.

Mr. J., about twelve weeks since, while standing near the end of the arbor of a heavy grindstone revolving rapidly by water power, Read more

Glass half-empty

Glass gobletThe remarkable headline above graced the pages of the American Journal of the Medical Sciences in April 1849.  In case you’re wondering, the two injuries are not related: the author just thought he’d put his two most spectacular cases in the same article.

Dr W.S.W Ruschenberger, surgeon to the US Navy, writes:

While recently on a visit to Canton, I Read more

Aleing all day, and oiling all night

Comments on corpulencyThose who think that morbid obesity is a uniquely modern phenomenon should read William Wadd’s ‘Comments on Corpulency’, published over several issues of the London Medical Gazette in 1828.  In a long essay he considered dozens of cases he had encountered, many of whom would be today under the care of a bariatric surgeon.  Here’s one of them: this encounter … Read more