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Bloodletting: Bane or Brilliance?

Updated: May 29

The year is 1870, and you are thriving. With your bouncy blond curls, you are loved by all the ladies. Great Britain is dominating (as usual), and you are unstoppable. That is, until fever hits you like a truck. But its alright! Dr. McKale will fix you right up by letting you bleed out on a table!

Just kidding. At least, about the "bleeding out on a table" part. Bloodletting was a common practice that originated almost 3000 years ago. It was first used by the Egyptians, and then spread to the Greeks and Romans. After that, it moved to the Arabs and Asians. Finally, it caught on in Europe during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

bloodletting

The concept of blood letting stemmed from the idea of the humors. During the time of Hippocrates, it was believed that everything was made up of four elements, including the human body, which was said to be made up of yellow bile, black bile, blood, and phlegm.

It was said, at the time, that fever or sickness was a direct result of imbalances in the four humors. Along with other practices, bloodletting caught on as a way to balance the humors in the event that the patient's blood was tipping the scale. This idea was verified by Galen and became widely known and used due to his great influence in the medical field.

Bloodletting is, essentially, the process of extracting blood from the human body to "purify" it.

The following list includes (but is not limited to) types of bloodletting:


  • Venesection: This is essentially the name of making a cut on the to draw blood for bloodletting. This practice is actually still used today, but not for the purpose of purifying the blood. Instead, it is used to analyze blood. The tools used for this practice are lancets and fleams, which are small knives that were used for operating. This was and still is the most common type of bloodletting/drawing


  • Arteriotomy: This is the name of the actual procedure used for veneection, which is when an artery wall is sliced to spill blood. Most people don't use this term any more, and instead simply refer to it as "drawing blood".


  • Localized Bloodletting: Physicians that used this method first used scarification, when scars are purposefully drawn into the skin. This draws the blood. After that, the doctor would use cupping, which is when a dome-shaped glass is pressed over the wound to suck out air.


A particularly famous bleeding was the bloodletting of Charles II. Having developed a fever, his doctors' first resort was to use bloodletting. He was bled multiple times before he died. A grand total of 24 ounces of blood was drawn from his body. Another famous bleeding is George Washington, who returned home one night with a fever. Along with other popular practices, he was treated with bloodletting. Sadly, he died the next night.

Bloodletting faced more and more controversy over the 18th century until it finally became obsolete. While the practice itself may seem nauseating and gruesome to us now, we must commemorate our predecessors for their work. The mistakes they made have altered modern-day medicine and assisted in eradicating any misconceptions. In the wise words of Carl Sagan, "You have to know the past to understand the present."


 

Works Referenced/Cited



Papavramidou, Niki, et al. “The Ancient Surgical Bloodletting Method of Arteriotomy.” Journal of Vascular Surgery, vol. 54, no. 6, Dec. 2011, pp. 1842–44. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvs.2011.05.100.


5 תגובות


I love this…followed

לייק

I love this…followed

לייק

אורח
22 במאי

Tbh I would love to go back in time and just become a doctor bc it would be so easy and then just heal a bunch of people by using basic knowledge

לייק

אורח
21 במאי

I am sooo relieved that this isn't a thing anymore, now Dr McKale can't bleed me to death because of his jealousy towards my curls and all the attention from the fair ladies!

לייק

אורח
21 במאי

YIPPIE

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