Bloodletting, 16th Century

Bloodletting, 16th Century

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Credit: NLM/Science Source/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Engraving entitled: Bloodletting procedure. A man is making incisions with a lancet on the backs of the legs of a man standing in a tub of water; a woman stands to the left with a towel; other instruments and another tub are on the floor; the physician(?) stands to the right. Bloodletting was based on an ancient system of medicine in which blood and other bodily fluid were considered to be humors the proper balance of which maintained health, but it often weakened sick patients. It was the most common medical practice performed by doctors from antiquity up to the late 19th century, a time span of almost 2,000 years. Leeches could also be used. The withdrawal of so much blood as to induce syncope (fainting) was considered beneficial, and many sessions would only end when the patient began to swoon.

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