Friday, September 30, 2016

1851: Bergson describes typical asthma attack

In an 1850 review of Dr. Joseph Bergson's book "On the Spasmotic Asthma of Adults" published in the Dublin Quarterly Journal of Medical Science, M.H. Gill explains how Dr. Bergson described a typical asthma attack.  Gill wrote:
The symptoms of the asthmatic paroxysm are the following. After the patient has slept several hours, generally up to 1 or 3 o'clock, A. M. he suddenly calls out, from the urgency of a sense of suffocation and constriction of the chest, which he is unable to expand. He gets up, endeavours to open the window, and supports himself with his hands and arms against a table or chair, so as to procure fixed points for the muscles required in laborious inspiration. The sound of the breathing can often be heard at a considerable distance, and this is especially the case with the inspirations, which are longer and more difficult than the expirations, so that several of the former may be heard for every one of the latter. The movements of the thorax are quite irregular; it is drawn more outwards, and then again pressed downwards, so that its parietes continue stiff and fixed, as if incapable of extension. All the muscles belonging to respiration are in astute of spasmodic contraction, especially the anterior muscles of the neck. The shoulder-blades are elevated like wings, and, from the contraction of the mastoid muscles, deep hollows are formed above and below the clavicles. There is also a hollow at the pit of the stomach, where it is connected with the insertion of the diaphragm.(1, pages 375-376)
In this state the patient can hardly perform any of the actions connected with respiration; even speaking becomes at times impossible, and when he coughs he is obliged to do so in the slightest manner. (1, page 376)
Gill then listed off some of the remedies for such an attack as noted by Berkart in his book.  Gill said Berkart does not take credit for any of these remedies, and makes note of the physician who recommended them.  Some of these remedies were:
  • Opiates
  • Smoking lobelia inflata
  • Smoking belladonna or taking it internally
  • Smoking hyoscyamus or taking it internally
  • Smoking strammonium or taking it internally
  • Ipecacuanha
  • Chloric and sulphuric ether, internally and in vapour
  • Painting interior of throat with liquid ammonia
This is a very telling description of an asthma attack.  The remedies, however, probably didn't provide much relief.

Further reading:
  1. 1851: Bergson verifies spasmotic theory of asthma (1/28/16)
  1. Gill, M. H., "Review and Bibliographic Notices: "On the spasmotic asthma of adults," by Bergson, published Gill's book, "The Dublin Quarterly Journal of Medical Science," volume X, August and November, 1850, Dublin, Hodges and Smith, pages 373-388
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1 comment:

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