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distressing symptoms, but protects the brain from more serious mischief, and thus places the system in a condition for speedy convalescence.
In what is called hay fever a good bleeding sometimes affords immediate alleviation of all the disagreeable suffering incident to that complaint, as dyspnoea, violent sneezing, nasal catarrh, tension in the frontal sinuses, headache, and horripilations, or chilly sensations along the course of the spine. I recollect one case which came under my observation, many years ago, in a clerical gentleman thirty-three years of age, who, on being largely bled one Sunday soon after the close of his religious services, was completely cured for that season; and, although the malady recurred during several consecutive summers afterwards, the attacks were always comparatively light.
Cases have been related of great benefit afforded by bleeding in uremic coma, attended with unconsciousness, dilated and fixed pupils, convulsions, a highly albuminous condition of the urine, and excessive prostration of the system. The blood at first issued feebly, but gradually the stream increased in volume. The fluid assumed a brighter hue, the pulse rose, the convulsions ceased, consciousness returned, and the patient finally made an excellent recovery. Several such examples will be found recorded in the London Medical Times and Gazette for September, 1874, by Dr. Benjamin W. Richardson, in an article "On Bloodletting as a Point of Scientific Practice," and are worthy of special study.
This spring twelve months ago I was requested to visit a lady, a stout, muscular person, in robust health, upwards of forty years of age, who for several years past had suffered much from attacks of headache, attended with dizziness and occasionally also with vertigo. She had tried various remedies without benefit. I sug. gested bleeding, to which she at once assented, and I drew fully three half pints of blood, with iinmediate and permanent relief.
Surgeons, the world over, draw blood after severe reaction in concussion of the brain to prevent inflammation of that organ and of its membranes. The more plethoric the patient the greater the necessity for such interference; but the operation should by no means be restricted to this condition, as it is often of great value, if timeously performed, in comparatively anemic subjects. It was a case of concussion of the brain that gave rise to the never-to-be-forgotten conversation between John Hunter and his pupil, Dr. Physick, at the time resident physician at St. George's Hospital, London. A man laboring under concussion of the brain
from a fall from a scaffold was brought into the surgical ward in a state of utter unconsciousness. “What shall I do?" said the pupil to his master. “Shall I bleed him?” “Bleed him? Bleed bim, sir? No, sir; you would kill him outright. Wait, sir, until he reacts, and then bleed him-bleed him to death, sir." In compression of the brain from fracture with depression of bone and compression from exhaustion of blood, the abstraction of blood by the lancet and leeches is frequently resorted to for the purpose of securing cerebral accommodation; and the practice, as is well kown, is often followed by the most gratifying results.
We all have, at some period or other of our lives, experienced the torturing, racking pains in the back and limbs so common in bilious remittent and intermittent fevers, as if the body were about to be broken in two, causing us to turn and toss about almost incessantly in search of ease, the head being generally at the same time terribly distressed, the skin hot and dry, the thirst intense, and the heart in wild, tumultuous motion. Who that has ever been freely bled in such a condition of the system does not remember with grateful feelings the prompt alleviation afforded by the operation? The application of a dozen wet cups to the aching back has often speedily transported the poor patient, as it were, from torment into Elysium. In gout and rheumatism the abstraction of blood is frequently of immense benefit, if not as a direct curative agent, as a means of relieving pain, and thus paving the way for the more successful action of other remedies. The passage of renal and biliary calculi is often greatly expedited and the suffering caused by it much alleviated, by a copious bleeding, especially in stout, plethoric subjects. But I must stop, for my remarks have already been extended far beyond my original design, which was simply to point out a few of the more prominent diseases in which, in my humble opinion, this much neglected but most valuable therapeutic agent may be advantageously employed.
The fate of blood letting teaches us an important lesson, not at all calculated to elevate our pride as men intrusted with the preservation of the health and lives of our fellow beings. It shows what little faith there is to be placed in human judgment, and how sadly we are influenced by authority and fashion in a matter pertaining to the dearest interests of society. If I wished to be satirical, I should say that there are in our profession, as there are, indeed, in every other, two distinct classes of men, the thinking and the non-thinking. The former, whose number is exceedingly limited, accept every novelty or great and sudden change with suspicion, wisely concluding that the one ought not to be adopted until it has been fairly tested by well-conducted observation and experiment, and that the other should not be rejected without sufficient cause. The non-thinking man, on the contrary, eagerly lays hold of every novelty, and seldom stops to seek a reason for his new faith. He adopts it simply because his neighbor adopts it. Especially is this the case when the novelty, whatever it may be, has a distinguished parentage, as when it has received the sanction of a great name, or, perchance, if it had a transatlantic origin. Jones, Robinson, or Brown in Europe is always a greater man, indeed far greater, than his namesake on this side of the water. The non-thinking man confounds progress with improvement. He does not weigh the pros and cons of a question; he takes a shorter route; sees things in a distorted light; assumes for granted things that he cannot comprehend; and jumps at conclusions. As the sheep follows the wether so be follows his master, looks through his spectacles, believes in his infallibility, and swears by his authority. The more the assertion borders on the marvel. lous the more greedily does he gulp it, so much easier is it to assume the truth of a proposition or statement than to prove it by sound, logical argument and inductive reasoning. I think I am not guilty of exaggeration in what I say. It really seems to me as if we were bereft of our senses. No sooner is a new remedy, a new operation, or a new method of treatment introduced to notice than it is puffed into gigantic proportions, and invested with virtues as foreign to it as any other folly under heaven. Certain it is there never was any greater need for deliberation and reflection, than there is at the present time; greater need of asking ourselves,
i Dr. Charles D. Meigs, in Pennsylvania Hospital Reports, vol. i. p. 27, 1868.