Bloodletting like in medieval times

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The case of the week

Pedro Human* is 12 years old and lives in the state Cusco. In comparison to his contemporaries he seems quite weak in the last months. His family observes that his skin color turns continuously darker. Finally he is examined in the public health station. The blood analysis shows a polycythemia. That means that the percentage of red blood cells in his blood is highly elevated.

The medical staff can’t explain the clinical findings. So they use a method, which was used in the medieval times for all kinds of complaints, the bloodletting. They are letting more than a liter of blood out of the boy. The result: he is even weaker than before. The father is skeptical. Then a few days ago he brought his son into the consultation-hour of Diospi Suyana.

Dr. Martina John recognizes his Hippocratic (watch-crystal) nails. This bulging of his fingernails is typical for a lung disease. The x-ray reveals then the true diagnosis: miliary tuberculosis.

If he will take his meds regularly, then the teenager can be healed. His long journey to Curahuasi has most likely saved his life.
Explanation: Because the uptake of oxygen in his lung is impaired through the tuberculosis, the body tried to compensate that through an increased production of oxygen carriers (red blood cells). The bloodletting neither treated the cause of the infection nor helped the symptoms of the patient. In medicine ignorance is a dangerous counselor. (*name altered)

Miliartuberculose x-ray
Miliary tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is still widespread in Peru.
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