4. Rhinoplasty (old school)

Syphilis arrived in Italy in the 16th century, possibly carried by sailors returning from the newly exploited Americas (the so-called Columbian exchange).

The sexually transmitted disease had a number of cruel symptoms, one of which was known as “saddle-nose”, where the bridge of the nose collapses. This nasal deformity was an indicator of indiscretions, and many used surgery to try and hide it.

An Italian surgeon, Gaspare Tagliacozzi, developed a method for concealing this nasal deformity. He created a new nose using tissue from the patient’s arm. He would then cover this with a flap of skin from the upper arm, which was rather awkwardly still attached to the limb. Once the skin graft was firmly attached – after about three weeks – Tagliacozzie would separate the skin from the arm.

The were reported cases of patients’ noses turning purple in cold winter months and falling off.

Photograph of a women with ‘syphilitic nose’ taken at St. Bartholomew’s Medical School in 1894. Wellcome images/Wikimedia commons.

Today, syphilis is easily treated with a course of antibiotics.

5. Bloodletting

Losing blood, in modern medicine, is generally considered to be a bad thing. But, for about 2,000 years, bloodletting was one of the most common procedures performed by surgeons.

The procedure was based on a flawed scientific theory that humans possessed four “humours” (fluids): blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile. An imbalance in these humours was thought to result in disease. Lancets, blades or fleams (some spring loaded for added oomph) were used to open superficial veins, and in some cases arteries, to release blood over several days in an attempt to restore balance to these vital fluids.

Bloodletting in the West continued up until the 19th century. In 1838, Henry Clutterbuck, a lecturer at the Royal College of Physicians, claimed that “blood-letting is a remedy which, when judiciously employed, it is hardly possible to estimate too highly”.

Finally, one medical procedure, dating from one of the earliest Egyptian medical texts, that isn’t used anymore – and I can’t for the life of me think why – is the administration of half an onion and the froth of beer. It cures death, apparently.

Adam Taylor, Director of the Clinical Anatomy Learning Centre & Senior Lecturer in Anatomy, Lancaster University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.