7 of the most bizarre medical treatments


A while ago, we wrote about the most terrifying treatments for mental illness. Turns out, those weren’t the only ones that were just plain ridiculous. Take a look at the following shocking medical treatments.

1. Plombage

Plombage was a surgical treatment for tuberculosis before medication was introduced. This involved the insertion of an inert substance to fill up the pleural space (the fluid-filled space) between the lungs. It was believed that if the diseased lung was forced to collapse, it would heal more quickly. Especially ping-pong balls were used to fill the cavities between the lungs.

2. Metal catheters

Before antibiotics were discovered, there were not many options to treat infections of the urinary tract or bladder. Catheters made of metal were often used to treat these infections. Besides being made from metal (as plastic hasn’t been discovered yet), these old fashioned catheters were completely straight, not taking the natural curve of the urethra into account. Ouch!

3. Hemiglossectomy

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. 

4. Kidney stone extraction

Even with today’s advanced medical technology, the removal of 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 – reportedly in the 8th century BC. 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. Keep in mind that this was before anaesthetics, and that surgeries were usually performed by barbers.

5. Cannibalistic cures

This treatment method was truly bizarre. Mummified corpses were crumbled into tinctures 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.

6. Tapeworms

We tend to think that extreme weight loss cures and fads are things of the modern age. Wrong! Tapeworm and tapeworm eggs have been marketed as a weight loss "cure" for over 100 years and were already being advertised in the early 1900s. Reportedly opera legend Maria Callas used this remedy to lose a couple of kilograms, but it could never be confirmed. We would suggest other, healthier ways of losing weight.

7. Maggot therapy

Maggot therapy involved the use of live fly larvae to help cure wounds and infections. According to sources, maggots were used long ago by the Mayan Indians and Australian aborigine tribes. Maggots were also placed on wounds by soldiers to aid healing. This one didn't quite die out as maggot therapy is still occasionally used today, especially in the case of foot ulcers in diabetic patients. 

Image credits: iStock and Wikipedia

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