Then and now: How far we’ve come in medicine

Back in the day, people had more to worry about during a doctor’s visit than an injection or a finger prick. Without the evolution of technology, resources and other medical advancements, our treatment choices were limited. Medical procedures used to range from strange to the shocking and downright scary!

Plombage

Then: Plombage was a surgical treatment for tuberculosis before medication was introduced.  For this procedure, ping-pong ball-like objects (plombes) were inserted into the lungs to collapse them. It was believed that if the diseased lung was forced to collapse, it would heal more quickly.

Now: Treatment for tuberculosis involves antibiotics for six to nine months. The medication used and length of treatment depends on your age, overall health and the form of TB.

Metal catheters

Then: Catheters (thin tubes) made of metal were often used to treat urinary tract and bladder infections. Besides being made from metal (as plastic hadn’t been discovered yet), these old-fashioned catheters were completely straight, not taking into account the natural curve of the urethra. Ouch!

Now: Antibiotics are used to kill the bacteria causing the infection. The kind of antibiotics you get depend on the kind of bacteria causing your infection and the severity of the infection.

Hemiglossectomy

Then: Have a problem with stuttering? Simply remove part of the tongue. In the 6th century B.C., physicians believed that the tongue was the main cause of stuttering. The best solution, they believed, was to cut it out. Of course it was a painful procedure, and patients often bled to death.

Now: Although there’s isn’t medication for stuttering, treatment may include speech therapy, parent-child interaction, or electronic devices to enhance the fluency of your speech.

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Kidney stone extraction

Then: Even with today’s advanced medical technology, removing kidney stones is still a difficult procedure. Thank goodness, though, the process has become a lot more sophisticated since the first kidney stone extractions were performed. Fast forward to the Middle Ages, where lithotomy was used to extract a kidney stone. An incision was made above the bladder, and the stone removed.

Now: Most kidney stones pass on their own within 48 hours. For larger ones which don’t, a procedure called lithotripsy is often used, where shockwaves are used to break the kidney stone into smaller pieces. In more severe cases, surgery is used to remove the stones.

Cannibalistic cures

Then: This treatment method was truly bizarre. Mummified corpses were crumbled into tinctures (a medicine made by dissolving a drug in alcohol) to stop internal bleeding. Unfortunately, this gruesome treatment didn’t stop there, and soon, powder made out of crushed skulls was used as a remedy for a number of illnesses. Romans also drank the blood of slain gladiators to gain vitality and strength.

Now: Internal bleeding is usually treated with surgery. The type of surgery will depend on where the injury and bleeding is located in your body.

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