Skip to comments.Ancient Bloodletting Practice Making a Comeback
Posted on 12/24/2012 3:25:47 PM PST by nickcarraway
Old medical practices, like bloodletting, are typically seen as reminders of a time when the human body was misunderstood. But some of these practices are now being revived with scientific backing.
Scientists at the Charité Hospital in Berlin recently undertook a clinical study to test the benefits that bloodletting can have on obese people suffering from the metabolic syndrome, with symptoms including high blood pressure, high blood-sugar levels and excessive iron in their blood.
After withdrawing two vials of blood from patients with the syndrome, scientists compared the samples with patients from a control group, according to head researcher Andreas Michalsen. They noticed "a significant reduction of blood pressure" among the participants after four to six weeks, he told DW.
Inspired by old traditions
The German study was inspired by an old medical tradition - people with high blood pressure or those at high risk of having a stroke often had blood drawn from their bodies.
The practice dates back to ancient Roman times, according to Lindsay Fitzharris, a medical historian with Wellcome Trust in the United Kingdom.
"Galen, a Roman physician in the 2nd Century A.D., believed blood was the product of food, so that when we eat, food is processed in the stomach and then moves into the liver, where it is processed as blood," says Fitzharris.
Galen, she adds, also believed that the excess blood needed to be removed from the body to restore "harmony and balance." Dangerous practice
Although Galen's medical thinking has long been discarded by the medical community, Fitzharris argues he was definitely onto something despite the risks patients were subjected to in those times.
Bloodletting frequently occurred in unsanitary conditions, making it extremely dangerous for anyone receiving the treatment. The instruments used to perform the procedure were often not clean, and the infection rates were high.
"Most of the time, bloodletting actually ended up hurting the sick rather than curing them," says Fitzharris. Often, she adds, those performing the procedure would cut the skin too deeply, allowing a patient to lose large amounts of blood.
Marathon bloodletting procedures
History books tell grotesque stories of marathon bloodletting procedures that often ended in a patient's death.
George Washington, the first President of the United States, is perhaps the most famous case of a bloodletting procedure gone wrong - Washington ended up dying.
Today's modern blood-withdrawal practices, however, have far higher hygiene standards. And given the results of the study, Michalsen now recommends using the procedure for certain patients.
They did this to a friend of mine. They did a lot of worthless things to him. He still died. I think he would have lived longer without all their cures. I swear....it’s all about the money for these older folks. They sure made out on my friend.
Within reason, bloodletting can be very beneficial. It lowers blood pressure.
It's the same reason aspirin helps... aspirin causes tiny hemorrhages and slight blood loss.
My Grandpa used leeches on his varicose veins back in the 1950’s and 60’s.
He kept them in a glass jar filled with water.
In James Herriot’s book (All Creatures Great and Small), his boss, the amazing Seigfried Farnon, bleeds a horse with some serious illness (I forget its name - it comes when a horse is not exercised enough) and restores the animal to health. Herriot (the writer Alfred Wight) goes on to say that he never had the courage to try it.
Laminitis - that is the disease.
My older brother used leeches on my skinned knee...He was having a blast....Me...not so much
I loved James Herriot’s books.
I think I might need to read them all again.
OMG!!!! His books are the GREATEST!!!
The removal of blood is still used to treat people with hemochromatosis - excess iron in the body. The goal is to induce a slight anemia to drain the excess iron from the tissues back into the circulation.
The practice of bloodletting for high blood pressure is fraught with danger to the patient. To be effective a quantity of blood would need to be removed to induce shock which opens up a whole new can of worms.
I remain unconvinced.
“The removal of blood is still used to treat people with hemochromatosis - excess iron in the body.”
Yup. My wife has genes H63/H63 (a defective gene from each parent common among Scotch/Irish) resulting in hemochromatosis.
I was shocked when the MD said he might have to bleed her regularly if her iron level (which was elevated) stayed too high...just like in the Middle Ages.
I have performed that procedure on patients in the past. Made me want to put on my mad scientist outfit!
The treatment works but unfortunately any newly ingested iron is retained and more blood has to be removed. However, I have had patients who got to the point that the intervals became longer and longer.
My wife had one blood test with a high iron count resulting in the genetic screening that revealed the H63/H63, but since then her iron level has subsided and her hematologist (she also has three rare hereditary bleeding disorders) says that for now she doesn’t need to worry. Fingers crossed! Blood draws on her are already medieval torture due to her tiny veins that collapse when the tech looks at them!