Blood Suckers & Flesh Eaters: Medieval Medical Practices Are Back With A Vengance

I am completely traumatized. This morning I went to see an ear, nose and throat specialist, expecting to just have the big shot doc shine a light up my nose and then merrily skip off to work. Oh, how wrong I was. After sticking something scary looking up my nose, my doctor declared, “Yep, we need to cauterize your nose.” WTF? I avoided science in college, so maybe I was mistaking cauterization for something else. He couldn’t mean that Medieval procedure where “doctors” burn your skin with a fire hot poker to stop excessive bleeding…could he? Well, that’s exactly what he meant. I tried reasoning with him. Surely a procedure I am sure I saw done in “Lord of the Rings,” was not the most modern or medically effective. My squeals for help went unregistered and the next thing I knew… OK, so I am a bit of a medical wimp and I am not in fact traumatized forever, just for the next few hours. As I lay back in the sticky chair trying not to faint and groaning about the injustice of it all, I asked him if medical procedures formerly deemed old fashioned were suddenly making a comeback? Yep. Prestigious medical centers around the world are rethinking their positions on medical practices that were poo-pooed in the 20th century. Safely back at my desk, more or less intact, but feeling like I just had a poker up my nose, I compiled a rundown of procedures you thought you would only hear about in museums and horror movies.

  • Flesh Eating Maggots: The best way to heal a stubborn wound that refuses to heal is indeed to “feed” the wound with hundreds or even thousands of super hungry maggots. Don’t worry too much, maggots are generally only used for really infected and festering wounds. Methinks if you are in a position where doctors are even considering using maggots, you will be too out of it to complain or in no condition to be making demands.
  • Blood Sucking Leeches: Leeches were used in olden days (and I mean Dark Ages olden) for “bloodletting.” The gist of the practice is the concept that people were sick from bad blood, so obviously the only way to get better was to get rid of said bad blood . Since Robert Pattinson wasn’t readily available in the 14th century, doctors used leeches. Not to get too graphic, but basically, if you’ve suffered an injury or are having major surgery and the blood stops circulating, the blood will clot and kill the flesh. Ewww. To give leeches their fair shout-out, however, they suck blood while simultaneously injecting you with aesthetics, antibiotics and anticoagulants. High-tech and organic. Grossed out? Me too. Unfortunately the peeps at the FDA are not, as they are in the process of regulating the use of blood suckers for use at a hospital near you. Edward Cullen, please please please pick up the phone!
  • Cauterization: Shock, I might have slightly overreacted. I was not actually branded with fire but electro-cauterized with electric pulses. Still, the traditional cauterization is still in vogue, so try to stop bleeding excessively if you can. Unless of course you are into “body decoration” and tattoos just aren’t doing it for you anymore. Yep, in certain cultures, cauterization is a fashion staple. Hot.