The man in the photo is not being re-educated by the ministry of love or any other sinister organization. Instead, he is merely having his brainwaves measured in a very early rendition of the electroencephalogram (EEG.) An EEG is a test that measures the electrical activity of the brain, colloquially known as brain waves, to look for abnormalities. EEGs are commonly used for epilepsy, head trauma, and other brain diseases.
German psychiatrist Hans Berger performed the first EEG test in 1929. He published a manuscript “On the Electroencephalogram of Man” that laid out the foundation for EEG tests as we know them today. His findings were genuinely shocking at the time, and it took him almost ten years to convince his fellow physicians that his results were legitimate. However, by the middle of the 20th century EEGs were a widely used test with the focus now being on improving hardware rather than disputing Berger’s work.
Modern EEG set-ups don’t look terribly different than the photo. Numerous small discs with wires are pasted to the scalp. Despite the intimidating appearance, EEGs are painless and can often even be done on an outpatient basis. The EEG is also considered a minimal risk test, as no sensations or shocks or applied the electrodes record activity. One of the few documented side effects is seizures triggered by the flashing lights of the machine or the deep breathing required while taking the test.
In the 1930s, Italian physician Dr. M. Matarasso pioneered a method for removing freckles that literally required freezing them and digging them out of your face. He would freeze a patch with carbon dioxide, or dry ice, and then use a small dagger-like device to loosen and peel the pigmentation off of the face. Within a week or two, the skin would heal freckle-free. The procedure is similar to how plantar and regular warts are treated, with liquid nitrogen or other freezing element applied in a process called cryotherapy.
Not only is the apparatus on the woman in the picture somewhat intimidating, but cryotherapy is quite painful. The application of the cold stings a great deal, and the subsequent death of tissue is quite painful. One cannot even imagine how painful an entire face of such treatment must be! Hopefully, the woman in the photo only had a few removed at a time, not her full cheeks.
The sick child in the photo looks like he’s an Ebola patient being kept isolated from his caretakers at the hospital. In reality, he’s merely sitting in an oxygen tent. Oxygen tents are used to provide an oxygen-rich environment for patients who are having difficulty breathing, whether from a chronic disease like asthma or an acute illness like whooping cough, also known as pertussis. Oxygen tents are used in hospitals and can also be used in an outpatient or home setting when needed.
While they are less common today than they once were, oxygen tents are still used in situations where an oxygen mask or respirator may be difficult to wear or too uncomfortable for the patient. The oxygen tent allows the patient to be relatively unencumbered, as evidenced by the surprisingly happy looking child in the photo, but they do need to be kept sealed to keep the oxygen saturation high enough to be therapeutic. As with all oxygen treatments, one needs to be careful about sparks and open flames due to the combustible nature of oxygen.
Radium was considered, in the early 20th century, to be a borderline mythical panacea. The novelty of a glow in the dark substance led many to believe it was almost magical, and it quickly made its way into many health and beauty products and was marketed as a cure-all. While various charlatans and snake oil salespeople attempted to profit off of radium, the medical community believed that there were legitimate curative uses for the newfound radium.
It was believed, at the turn of the century, to be bactericidal, meaning that it would kill bacteria. It also was thought to be superior to the newly discovered X-Rays in the treatment of small areas of the body. The bactericidal nature, as well as its targeted use, led to radium being used to treat tuberculosis. It was also sometimes applied to the skin to treat disorders such as lupus and rodent ulcer. In Germany, experimentation was done with inhaling radium as a treatment for various illnesses. Radium in bath water was also used to treat gout and arthritis.
Once the incredible dangers of radium were finally realized, and more important, acknowledged, radium quickly fell out of favor for medical uses. Today, it persists only in a few particular cases, such as the treatment of cancers that absorb iodine.
Scoliosis is a relatively common condition, affecting about 3 percent of people, in which the spine has a sideways curve, often resembling the letters s or c. Scoliosis varies widely in severity, with some patients having minor curves that can be corrected through braces while others have severe deformity causing curves that require surgical correction. In the 19th century and early 20th century, braces would have to be based on plaster casts. While the woman in the photo may look like she’s being tortured, she’s actually being fitted with a plaster mold on which her brace will be based. Layers of linen or gauze are being wrapped around her, which will then be dampened with plaster material. Once the plaster mold dries, it will be cut off and used to cast the brace.
In current times, computer-aided drawing (CAD) software is used to design braces with non-invasive and easy measurements being all that is required of patients. This technology removed the need for plastering in adults. However, plaster casts may still be used in cases of infant scoliosis as it has been shown to successfully eliminate the need for bracing later in life when treated early.
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