Every culture and religious group on earth has some form or another of healer or doctor. Pseudo healers who claim to work miracles with infinitely diluted extracts or carefully selected herbs. Witch doctors and Sangomas who can increase the length of your male appendage, help you win the lotto, or bring back lost lovers—all at a fee, of course. In Western medicine, we tend to place our trust in medically trained doctors who practice science-based medicine to treat human ailments, mend broken bones, or fight international headlining pandemics in full protective gear.
The modern world has come to benefit from the advances in medical science, and we are, therefore, surviving long past the expiration dates of our ancestors from previous centuries. Not all medical treatments, however, are what they are chalked up to be. Here are 10 surprising medical treatments (applied and used by medically trained doctors) you hope you will never need:
Related: 10 Weird Medieval Medical Practices That Actually Work
10 Nose Job
Let’s start off with an easily avoidable one—the simple nose job. Looks are important as we are visual creatures and appreciate beautiful lines and features. However, there aren’t many noses that are misformed enough to warrant putting them through the process of rhinoplasty.
As expected, the procedure starts out with a decent dose of sedation. This is followed by a trained professional placing a chisel as far up your nose as possible. Then they violently hack at it with a mallet until the desired shape is achieved—either by removing cartilage in your nose or by inserting cartilage or bone removed from elsewhere in your body. If you drive by a construction site again, stop and listen to the clang of the hammers on the steel and concrete and then consider whether it’s worth it.
9 Open Eye Surgery
Nothing is allowed near my eyes. I can feel the windows to my soul watering just thinking about what I am about to write. Eye surgery happens, as one would expect, with your eyes open. I repeat—open eye surgery requires your eyes to be open while they cut and burn your corneas and iris using nothing but a local anesthetic. As a recent eye surgery patient—detached retina surgery—noted, “It’s strange—you know your eye is open, and the doctor is working in there with sharp objects. You can hear the scraping or whatever they’re doing, but you can’t feel or see it.”
Your eyeballs do not have pain receptors, which helps, but the feeling of something scraping at your lenses and then cutting into it like grapes are enough to leave any person thinking—should I just go blind instead?
8 Natural Childbirth
Let’s get something straight, I am an advocate for a natural birth if advised by your medical practitioner. However, what people do not always know about natural childbirth is that pushing a human wrecking ball out of your vagina can and will cause tearing of the vaginal walls. Therefore, even with your average, run-of-the-mill natural birth, the doctor will get all snippy and be inclined to make an incision.
To limit the damage of an expected tear, the doctor may perform an episiotomy. In other words, they would anticipate the point of pressure and cut small slits in the vaginal wall—with scissors—preventing the vagina and anus from becoming one orifice of blood and feces. On second thought, just skip the children and move directly to the empty nest phase of life, characterized by happiness and relief. And adopt a dog instead!
7 Black Mamba Venom Treatment
In Africa, there are many things that can and will kill you at the drop of a hat. In particular, snakes. Snakes are responsible for roughly 20,000 deaths per year on the African continent, with Black Mambas having the highest bite to death ratio. If a Black Mamba bites you, and the wound is left untreated, you will die. Almost 100% assured.
So, what can doctors do about it? In the rare case the hospital has anti-venom in stock, they will administer and monitor. If not, then good luck. In some instances of severe envenomation, and where anti-venom isn’t enough (or none available), then they hook you up to life support and let go, hoping that the machines keep your body working long enough to outlast the poison by itself. Whereafter they will wake you. If you do wake.
6 Skin Graft
If you had a close encounter with an open flame, or perhaps you were dragged behind a moving Roman chariot, and you need new skin, why not just get a skin graft? A skin graft is where they harvest skin from another part of your body (usually your buttocks, upper leg, or back) and then “plant” it over the affected area. Easy right? Obviously not.
There are various ways to perform a skin graft (i.e., split-thickness, full-thickness, autograft, allograft, xenograft, etc.)—most processes involve harvesting skin from the patient him/herself. A handheld electric human peeler called a dermatome is used to slice off the top layer of the dermis, after which the skin is meshed. The meshing, in short, means running the removed skin through a machine that makes slits, allowing for expansion.
If you are imagining a human skin fishnet, you are on the right track. The net is placed over the wound and stapled to the body with special surgical staples. There is no guarantee of success, meaning there is a possibility the sliced-off skin, removed from a perfectly healthy part of your body, will simply dry and shrivel…while stapled to your body.
5 Electroconvulsive Therapy
Mental Health has recently come under the spotlight in the media and in popular culture, and rightly so. Depression can have adverse side effects on a person’s general wellbeing. Sometimes, however, therapy and medication simply do not make a difference in severe cases. Enter Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT).
ECT involves general anesthesia and blasting the brain with electric shockwaves in an attempt to trigger seizures. The procedure first began in Italy in the 1930s, even though psychiatrists had already known that inducing seizures could be useful in treating certain mental illnesses. Before ECT, they used chemicals, which caused episodes of terror in patients before the seizure started.
After losing popularity in the ’60s and ’70s, ECT use increased again in the 1980s, though still considered an extreme treatment to most people. A few years ago, they would administer ECT without anesthesia, which led to memory loss, fractured bones, and other little niggles, which highlights what the process involves.
4 Transsphenoidal Surgery
The ancients had cleverly figured out the shortest way to the brain is up the nose. They weren’t wrong. Anybody who has had the pleasure of receiving a COVID test (most of us surely) knows what it feels like when an unstable hand forces the tip of a cotton swab so far up your head you want to faint. It, therefore, makes sense that doctors have perfected the art of removing tumors through your nose. You heard me.
With the assistance of a nice long endoscope and curette, which is an instrument made for scraping or debriding tissue or debris from bodily crevices and surfaces (in particular when doing a biopsy), they go in through your nose like the Magic School Bus on a science outing, looking for the tumor.
3 Amputation under Local Anesthesia
We have all heard the horror stories—you go under the knife, and the doctor amputates the wrong leg, or in this particular case, your penis. What they don’t tell you is that sometimes another horror story plays out. If you have a terrible baseline and are not suited for full, dreamy, general anesthesia, they use a local anesthetic. In other words, it’s a targeted painkiller and can be applied to numb the lower half of your body or one side in particular.
What this means for the poor patient is simple—you cannot feel the pain, but you do, however, notice your body rocking as they saw through your limb, the smell of burned tissue as they seal your blood vessels, and the sound and vibrations of a bone saw making its way through your body. You are merely a spectator at your own amputation, and it’s not just a bad dream.
2 Fecal Transplant
Have you ever thought about having another person’s poop inside you? No? Congratulations, you are normal. In some rare instances, it might be necessary to restore your health. Human feces and the intestinal tract contain large amounts of microbes and healthy bacteria. When the body has an adverse reaction to certain types of antibiotics, a condition known as Clostridium Difficile Colitis (C. diff) may occur.
While the condition can be treated with oral or intravenous antibiotics, severe cases may require a “poop transplant,” officially fecal microbiota transplantation. To restore the balance of “good bacteria,” a sample of healthy feces is delivered (usually via colonoscopy) throughout the colon. In other words, another person’s poop is shot straight into your body.
1 Methanol Poisoning
During the height of the pandemic, in many countries, lockdown rules included curfews, stay-at-home orders, and alcohol bans. The ban on alcohol had an adverse impact on people who depend on wine to stay sane being cooped up at home (I am looking at you mothers and writers), leading many to attempt brewing their own. Reports across the globe indicate that failed home brewing had led to a significant increase in methanol poisoning.
Ethanol, found in most of your favorite alcoholic beverages, is safe if consumed responsibly. Methanol, on the other hand, is not. The treatment for methanol poisoning, ironically, is the consumption of ethanol. In other words, if you drink too much of your failed homebrew, you would need some vodka or wine to save your life. What a cruel game of irony life played on people who consumed methanol for the sole reason there wasn’t alcohol available in the first place. Lucky for you, the hospital should have more than enough of the right juice.