Health Advice



Looking up From a Lockdown

Scott LaFee on

Medical History

This week in 1867, The Lancet published a paper by Joseph Lister, the first of a series of articles on his discovery of antiseptic surgery. Lister applied Louis Pasteur's idea that the microorganisms causing gangrene might be controlled with chemical solutions. Since the use of carbolic acid (phenol) was known as a means of deodorizing sewage, Lister tested the results of using a solution of it for spraying instruments, dousing surgical incisions and applying it to dressings. Upon finding this procedure substantially reduced the incidence of gangrene, Lister published his results.

Med School

Q: What causes hiccups?

A: The ancient Greek physician Galen thought hiccups were violent emotions erupting from the body; others suggested they were a sign of liver inflammation. Modern evidence points to spasms in the diaphragm, the large muscle between the chest and abdomen that aids in airflow during breathing.

Hiccups are involuntary contractions of the diaphragm and can be triggered by a number of things causing irritation of the nerves controlling it: a full stomach; heavy drinking; rapid shifts in temperature inside or outside the stomach; and certain emotions, such as shock or excitement.


So Galen was at least partly right.

Last Words

"I didn't want to leave this world without knowing who my descendant was; thank you, Michael." -- American dancer and actor Fred Astaire (1899-1987), referring to pop star Michael Jackson


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