Medicine in the 19th Century
Written by Editor   
Thursday, June 05, 2014 07:14 AM

"I knew nothing about medicine, but I had sense enough to see that doctors were killing their patients; that medicine was not an exact science; that it was wholly empirical, and that it would be better to trust entirely to Nature than to the hazardous skills of the doctors."  -- Dr. James Marion Sims, who is often referred to as the father of modern gynecology in the U.S. 

Prior to the use of x-ray technology, it took a couple of tools from an American gynecologist to save an Italian hero's bloody ankle after surgeons spent 2 months searching for an alleged lead bullet.  In 1862, Giuseppe Garibaldi, a man hailed as a hero of the Italian Unification, suffered a serious gunshot wound to his right ankle on the battlefield at Aspromonte, and the international health media of the day covered a 2-month long debate between French, British, Italian, and Russian surgeons over whether or not the bullet remained intact and how to manage Garibaldi's worsening condition.

"The bullet penetrated above the front of the medial malleolus, … one surgeon on the case wrote. A month later, the same surgeon wrote he believed "[the bullet] had not really entered."  After failed explorations with metal probes, and therapies of leeches, a tin splint, saltpetre, and linseed flour, a French surgeon introduced a porcelain-tipped probe and confirmed the presence of the foreign body with a black mark. Surgeons inserted Laminaria digitata -- a dried brown seaweed native to the British Isles and often used to dilate the cervix -- to absorb moisture in the wound and clear a path for extraction of the bullet.

The porcelain-tipped probe was developed by Dr. James Marion Sims, a controversial figure who is often referred to as the father of modern gynecology in the U.S.  In his autobiography, Sims wrote, "I knew nothing about medicine, but I had sense enough to see that doctors were killing their patients; that medicine was not an exact science; that it was wholly empirical, and that it would be better to trust entirely to Nature than to the hazardous skills of the doctors."

Porcelain and seaweed; way to go Nature.

Source:  http://www.medpagetoday.com/PrimaryCare/GeneralPrimaryCare/46045