Wednesday, May 20, 2015

400 B.C.: Hippocrates describes pneumothorax

While he didn't understand it nor its cause, Hippocrates described a condition that we now refer to as pleural effusion and he referred to as hydrothorax.  It's a condition where fluid builds up in the pleural cavity.

As a remedy, he described the procedure of paracentesis, which involved creating an incision above the third false rib, and inserting a tube into the opening. He then used a trocar.  A Trocar, according to, is a sharp pointed instrument enclosed in a cannula that was used for withdrawing fluid from the cavity. (1, page 282)

This procedure was very similar to the procedure physicians would perform today for the same ailment. The main difference is that modern physicians would know about aseptic technique and would be better capable of controlling pain.

  1. Hippocrates, Claudius Galen, writers,  John Redman Coxe, translator, "Hippocrates, the Writings of Hippocrates and Galen," 1846,, accessed 7/6/14, also see the book online at Google books, Philadelphia, Lindsay and Blakiston
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