|Ancient Greek painting on a vase, showing a physician (iatros) bleeding a patient|
So why was the cutting of a vein and the loss of blood through such a method even done let alone done frequently throughout history?
I found more information (including why bloodletting is back and never actually disappeared altogether) about this fascinating medical practice in an article on the Med-Tech Blog.
"Bloodletting is one of the humanity's oldest medical practices, dating back thousands of years and linked to many ancient cultures, including the Mayans, Aztecs, Egyptians and Mesopotamians. The typical purpose was to cure a person suffering from some kind of infirmity (leprosy, plague, pneumonia, stroke, inflammation, herpes, acne – pretty much anything). The patient was pierced or cut and then drained of several ounces of blood until they fainted." Sounds like it would put you asleep for days if it didn't kill you outright. Right? Who was that author who said, " Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed." See, bloodletting cures all woes or does it? I'd suggest you not try this in desperation of your next sentence.
"Leeches were also used for bloodletting. Applied to the skin, this type of worm can suck several times its original body weight in blood. The use of leeches in Europe peaked between 1830 and 1850, then fell into decline. This was firstly a result of the invention of ‘mechanical leeches’, and then changes in medical models of the body. Today, leeches are used in surgery to help heal skin grafts and restore blood circulation. Their usefulness is no longer attributed to the amount of blood they can suck out, but to an enzyme in their saliva which helps blood flow freely." The Science Museum.
"A surgeon or barber might also use heated cups and an instrument known as a scarificator to bleed a patient. When applied to the skin, the cups created blisters which were then sliced open using a multi-blade instrument that inflicted wounds on the vessels just beneath the skin. Although painful, this approach carried less risk than venesection as the cut was often more superficial."
I hope this short exploration of bloodletting has been both entertaining and informational. For those of you who are interested and have strong stomachs, very strong stomachs, you may want to explore further on the history of medicine with Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris. Like those of us here at HHH her focus on history. She answers in an interview you can read all of here.
Why is history important today?
Our understanding of the present is filtered through our knowledge of the past. History gives value to the here and now.
I couldn't have said it better myself. So what about you members and fans of HHH? Why is history important to you? Can you think of anything you discovered on our blog this year that was especially interesting or meaningful to you? If so, please share and tell us the name of the blog post and who wrote it.
Happy New Year and may we see and hear from you often in 2015.
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Jillian is employed as a counselor for nursing students in Cincinnati, Ohio and possesses a masters degree in social work. She is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors and passionate about mental health, wellness, and stomping out the stigma of mental illness. You can explore further at her website www.jilliankent.com where you can read more about her novels..She invites you to join her on Twitter @JillKentAuthor and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/JillianKent