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KPG Healthcare’s Throwback Thursday – Crazy Medical Practices From the Past

Everyday we are astonished at the medical advances we continue to make- but we rarely reflect on the history of those changes.  Medical mysteries, myths, and just plain guesses were completely normal in our history.  They may seem odd, but it’s important to be just as aware of our history as our future!

The Art of the Lobotomy

  • Though the lobotomy is rarely used today, the past of the lobotomy is strange and intriguing. Used during the 1940s and 50s to treat mental illness, a lobotomy is a surgical operation involving incision into the prefrontal lobe of the brain. Lobotomies were performed upwards of 20,000 times during this time period! It was mainly used on people who presented psychiatric problems, but was sometimes used incorrectly on people who just had pain in their head.
  • Today, this procedure is far less frequent, and is seen as a last-resort for psychiatric patients.  The advancements of the brain are astonishing and there are many more options, both surgical and non-surgical for both mental and physical illnesses than in the 1940s and 50s.

Some Good ‘ol Cough Syrup

  • Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup was extremely popular in the mid to late 1800s, It worked wonders, but  it included an ingredient not many children might need for the common cold- morphine. It’s said that every ounce included nearly 65 mg of pure morphine!It was not until early into the 1900s that it was essentially discredited and removed from the U.S. market.
  • Today we have many options for children’s medicine that come in both liquid and pill form that are effective and much less harmful.

The Healing Power of Mercury

  • Mercury is known today as the poisonous substance found in thermometers and even seafood. However, in the 1800s, it was the common practice to use Mercury as an all-healer for a variety of ailments and illnesses. Mercury was viewed as a remedy for things such as syphilis, parasites and more. This practice continued until the harmful ingredients found in mercury began to take the lives of nearly all who used it as a medicine.
  • Today, there is no doubt that mercury is not the best choice as a medicine for any ailment and we are even advised to watch the amount we consume in our food.  Our advanced medicine have allowed many illnesses and diseases to be cured in other ways without the side effects presented by something as strong as mercury.

Vaccines of the Past

  • The history behind the idea of vaccines sounds like a science fiction film. The Mallam Scarificator was a vaccine device of the 1800s that somewhat tried to prevent diseases such as smallpox. This device looks like a torture tool, consisting of 4 blades that were previously exposed to blood of a patient who was infected with the disease. The blades were cocked back with a spring, then released to cut the skin of a healthy child to expose their immune system to the smallpox disease. As you might imagine, this was not always successful and often the cuts would scab and fester with infection. This was not a life-long solution.
  • As we know, vaccines are very advanced today and are trusted by many to prevent both common and more uncommon diseases. The same ideas of exposing the healthy individual to the disease in order to expose their immune system is the same, however it no longer comes directly from those already infected. The exposure is now confined and comes from a sterile lab where the professionals are able to correctly handle the disease without spreading it.

Clear Your Head

  • In our ancient history, head or brain injuries had no real treatment options. The prevalent practice was a tradition called Trepanning, which involved drilling into a patient’s skull where the pain or ailment seemed to stem from. There are conflicting accounts as to why this was the treatment of choice at this time, but the most common reasoning was that it was a ritual that came from within many ancient communities. Ancient societies focused many of their actions on tradition and ritual, and it took years for others to realize that they may not be the most reliable or even safe.
  • Today, we have many different cures and options for a multitude of brain/head injuries. From headaches to brain tumors to concussions, there are many treatment plans which thankfully do not involve blindly drilling holes into a patient’s skull. Instead of relying purely on tradition, modern scientists are constantly questioning, evaluating and researching current treatment methods.

Our medical advancements have taken generations to reach where we are now, and things can only continue to prosper. While in the past we have seen the rise of medicine and vaccines as advancements, we are not in the age of practice anymore but rather the age of technology. Finding new advancements seems to make ways we can grow in the medical field almost limitless. Scans, monitors, and other complex forms of technology are constantly being introduced and humanity has certainly benefited from them! ** Please not that these are purely for fun and KPG Healthcare does not support, promote or encourage any of the above practices. 

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