Top 10 Outdated Medical Treatments

There are advancements in every field. And these have proved to be a stepping stone to the development of the world. In the medical field, there has been an immense development since the early times. In the days of yore, patients were transported from one place to another by specially designed tri-cycles. Various surgical instruments proved to have more purpose than safety. Instruments made of solid iron many times rusted and caused infections and other such complications. However, in today, in this modern era, an immense and rapid development in all aspects in the medical fields has proved to be beneficiary and has simply increased the average life-span of humans.

How about we take a sneak peek at a few medical treatments and therapies that are no longer in practice today in most parts of the world? The following lists 10 outdated medical treatments.

1. Cocaine to the Rescue

Drug Addict hand with syringe on the floor with a bag of drugs a spoon and a lighter

The feeling that one gets when that when those drugs travel through one’s veins and instantly reaches the “stress-reliever” part of the brain, is somewhat heavenly. But little does he/she know the harm it causes to the body. However, disregarding this fact, it was used as an excellent medical treatment to cure various ailments and disorders.

Back in the nineteenth century, people were either too busy (or too lazy) to do even the most basic of tasks, like applying a balm to headaches or even answering nature’s calls. The most affected in this way were the mothers of the nineteenth century. They found it difficult in managing a toddler and or even to baby-sit them. So, they easily fell prey to a novel way that these people came up with especially for problems like these. Syrup containing select soothing ingredients quickly put the baby to sleep, solving most of the problems. Actually, it was a bottle that contained as much narcotics it could contain. A special bottle containing all the known narcotics was administered to the babies to help them fall asleep. It did work on many situations, while on others, proved to be fatal. In those days, people were unaware of the bad effects that drugs like these on the body when taken regularly. In the long run however, it was found that this syrup contained morphine sulphate, chloroform, powdered opium, heroin, and a few other such drugs that are now made illegal.  In many cases, the toddlers and others who ingested them were found to be dead the next morning and many such cases were booked in the period this method lasted. It naturally went out of practice. Another outdated medical treatment.

2. Maggot Debridement Therapy

This treatment would stand out among the gross lists of therapies followed in the past. It is a known fact that maggots feed on dead and decaying matter. Back in those days, this was used to treat open wounds, blisters, etc.  It is otherwise known as the larva therapy and involves the use of maggots. The maggot larvae are applied to the unhealed wound and are covered by a special dressing that is to be kept as such without any disturbance for a couple of days. This is to prevent external infection to the open wound and to prevent migration of the larvae. The larvae gradually eat up the dead skin cells surrounding the wound and would also prevent further infections from spreading. Thus it enhances the speed of the wound getting healed. It does not hurt much but may cause a tingling feeling to the patient under-going. Many would not prefer this, just for the fact that having something alive eating away your wound sounded disgusting.

3. Electrical Impotence Technique

Impotence in men was a major problem even in the ancient world. Back then, an impotent man was considered socially weak and was side-lined. An impotent man literally meant embarrassment for the person back then. However, with the invention of electricity, the world in every aspect glowed bright, literally. By the early nineteenth century, when the properties and uses of electricity was known to man, the researches and doctor were eager to test its effect on the human body. They soon came up with the idea that electrifying certain region of the body would redeem its activity. When it was found that the brain sent out electric pulses to all parts of the body as a result of which they respond and behave like they are supposed to or as desired, a lack of activity meant that the electric pulses were improperly or disorderly sent to that region. So, they came up with a device that looked more like a belt worn by horses, known as a bride. The belt was worn around the waist and it sent out electric pulses that, for a first time wearer would make him shout of pain. This method was believed to cure one of impotency, but was short lived.

4. Trepanation Treatment

Holing in skull

If blood-letting seemed gross, then this technique would go a scale higher. It was during those days when medicine was in the stone-ages and man believed that it as the work of evil spirits possessing the unfortunate making him sick. So, techniques were designed with these in mind and most of them had absolutely no scientific explanation to it. This method was used for most inter-cranial disorders and those ailments related to the head. In this method, with the help of a special instrument, a hole was drilled into the skull of the patient to expose the grey matter inside. It was also believed that the evil spirit trapped into the patient’s body would become free and would escape out, thus leaving the patient, cured of the disease. So, this technique was often followed up by rituals aimed at driving out the evil spirit or at beckoning the good spirits for help. True to the fact that drilling a hole into your head sounds deadly, it did claim many lives and the people at that time, believed that it was the work of the evil spirits, who had taken revenge by taking the life of the unfortunate patient.

Trepanation was also a type of surgery and those wounded in the head got their broken bones mended by this method. Today, doctors use a much modified and safer version that is medically termed, “craniotomy”. It is used for neurological procedures and has a higher success rate than trepanation.

5. Treatment using Mercury

Treatment for muscle pain

We use this element as an essential constituent in thermometers. However, it has been found that Mercury was in use much before man had found its use as a thermometer.  Man has always been fascinated by this one element just for its properties by which it does not stick to any surface and it natural luster, because of which many thought it was precious. In the medical field however, mercury finds an important use. This liquid metal though known to us now that it is highly toxic was actually ingested to treat various ailments, by the ancient civilizations. Administered in small quantities, it was used in the treatment of chest pains, heart and liver problems, muscle spasms and almost every ailment in the book. It was believed to be among the most important elements by the ancient traditions and was considered celestial, a gift from the gods themselves. Rewind back a century and you would be considered weak if you did not have a small quantity of this liquid metal in your body. However, true to its toxic nature, ingestion of mercury claimed many lives in the past, but because of the lack of knowledge back then, people blamed it on their lifestyle and the deceased itself, saying that he/she was too weak by nature. However, it did do some good in the many years it served as a popular treatment. It was used in the treatment of STD’s (Sexually Transmitted Diseases) and evidence has it that it did prove to be very effective. It had somewhere around 50% success rate but, drastically reduced the life-span of those treated.

6. Fire Cupping

At first glance, it would seem as if this method is straight out of a movie. Yes, indeed, it was shown in the famous movie “karate kid”. This treatment is among the oldest ever to be followed and dates back to around 1,000 years old, according to archaeological finds. It simply uses the basic concept of a vacuum created by heated air and the name of this treatment literally explains as to how it is done. Congestion, arthritis, chest pains, muscle cramps, sprains are some of the most common ailments that can treated by this method. In this method, special cups are used and these are of certain specific dimensions. Vacuum created by heated air, is then heated using fire and put into the cup. These are then held onto the patient’s skin, targeting the area to be treated. Naturally, because of the vacuum, the cups stick to the skin’s surface and this method is usually followed up by slow, gradual massage on the affected area. It was most commonly used in the regions of ancient China and though outdated in other parts of the China and the world, it is still in practice by certain sects in China who claim that this is among the best methods for treating body disorders. This method does not have any known side-effects. While it may prove to be an excellent stress-reliever, no documented proof for the efficiency of this technique was found. Many still don’t know how this method actually works.

7.  Treatment by Blood-Letting

The ancient Greeks had contributed a lot to the world in the fields of mathematics and science. Also known as “Bleeding”, this method was quite popular even with the ancient Mesopotamians. Blood-letting was among the few outdated treatments that were followed for a very long time. It very quickly spread to various parts of the world for the only reason that it was believed to be very effective. From the Greeks, it spread to Mesopotamia, then to the Egyptians, the Mayans, the Aztecs, and other such major ancient civilizations. It was believed that wasting some “bad blood” would also take away the disease with it. Though thought to be very effective, it actually hurt those undergoing this treatment and naturally resulted in a large quantity of one’s blood being lost. In this method, a deep cut was made usually in the hands of the patients, close to the vein, where the blood flow is fast. Due to high blood pressure, blood instantly gushed out and it was thought to bring out the disease along with it. On the contrary, post treatment, the improper sealing of the cut skin caused infections and the blood loss made the person very weak. However, disregarding these disadvantages, it was followed till the early nineteenth century, only to be later replaced by the “blood transfusion” method used now-a-days, which is safer.

8. Induced Seizures

In the early 1930’s, a Hungarian pathologist by the name of Ladislas Von Meduna observed that most of his patients who suffered from epilepsy, gradually developed psychotic symptoms and were soon found to have been cured of epilepsy. This was also observed to those patients suffering from schizophrenia. From this, he devised a strange medical treatment that earned him fame and name.  About 20% of his epileptic patients showed absolutely no reaction to anticonvulsants and other such drugs that were known to cure such disorders. Sadly, after a few weeks of developing psychotic symptoms and with the epilepsy being cured, came depression. These marked changes in the mood of his patients were easily noticeable and antidepressants proved futile. So, Ladislas devised a bizarre method where a mixture of camphor oil and oil was injected right into the main blood stream of some his patients suffering from catatonic schizophrenia (a severe form of schizophrenia). The mixture immediately spread throughout the body and developed seizures. This was the process of induced seizures, where it was created using an external medical mixture. These seizures somehow reduced the effects of depressions and gradually cured the patients off their disorders. In other words, his method proved to be 50% effective. But, during that time, no one could clearly explain as to why this method worked and Ladislas had devised it, just as a mere attempt.

9. Insulin Therapy

Here is another method of treating schizophrenics and other such mental illnesses. This method was also used in the treatment of other major disorders and diseases that are unrelated to mental illnesses. The doctors believed that an increase in the dosage of insulin in the body would cure of certain diseases. This was followed in the days when the medical field was still young and many new discoveries and theories were still being made. So, most of the doctors used certain patients to try out their new-found ideas or to put their new-found theories to practical use. Soon, rumors began to spread about certain doctors testing patients and conducting illegal medical procedures to physically disabled patients without their consent. This led the medical boards to come up with stringent measures to prevent such future occurrences. In this method, the patient was literally “shocked” in order to get some desirable changes. This was done not by inducing an electrical shock, but by increasing the level of one’s insulin in the body, which naturally caused the body to go into a state of seizure. Again, the main problems observed were the patients to gradually slip into a coma. Some doctors believed that the body heals itself and that some kind of normalization is attained after a coma.

10. Electroconvulsive Treatment (ECT)

Somewhere in 1938, a certain Italian psychiatrist by the name of Ugo Cerletti observed that it was much easier to slaughter pigs when they were electrocuted. He later discovered that a mild electric shock administered to pigs temporarily stunned them, and paralyzed their limbs for a short while. Using this as an inspiration, he soon developed a way by which a mild shock given to his patients directly to the head, acted as an anesthetic, temporarily making the patients unconscious. His patients were usually those who were mentally challenged and it proved to be a great task when he tried injecting with a local anesthesia, especially because they did not co-operate too well as other patients would. This method was used in an effective manner for the treatment of several mental disorders, Bi-polar disorders, depression, Catatonia and schizophrenia. It was found that this method sometimes paralyzed the patient completely sent them to a coma. At other times, it was observed that, even when the treatment was partially successful, the patient became paralyzed in some part of the body, either waist-down or the top portion. In most of the cases however, this method proved to be effective ago soon earned fame.


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