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5 Controversial Medical Treatments Used in Modern Medicine

Some are brand new treatments, some are thousands of years old, but they’re all controversial. And they’re performed every day.

1. Electroshock Therapy

The medical community introduced Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), or Electroshock therapy, as a medical therapy in the 1930s. The procedure involves placing electrodes on the forehead and passing electrical currents into the brain. The electricity then causes a seizure which lasts 30 to 60 seconds on average.

The treatment has always been controversial. Patients were not sedated or given any sort of anesthesia in the beginning years of the therapy. The electricity used was also in high levels.

It was a scary process that many patients feared. Anyone who has seen One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest or American Horror Story: Asylum knows just how scary of a treatment it was back then.

In fact, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest is credited with creating the therapy’s tarnished image in mainstream society. It was around that time the process became safer, thanks to modification in current duration, and ways to calm the patient. It was nearly too late, however. The reputation was widespread.

Today, patients receive anesthesia and electricity doses that are much more controlled. This makes the therapy much safer, according to the Mayo Clinic. Patients also receive muscle relaxers that prevent the convulsive seizure most people think of.

Even with modern changes, the treatment still has generally the same side-effects. It can damage short-term memory and, in rare cases, cause serious heart problems.

ECT is never used as a first line therapy, mostly because of its undesirable side effects and stigma. Today, it is more common to use talk therapy or pharmaceuticals to treat psychiatric issues.

However, there is a reason the treatment is still used; it works. Patients who cannot get relief from severe depression or schizophrenia often find the treatment to be extremely helpful.

ECT is also used to treat patients who are at extreme risk for suicide and who suffer from severe mania

According to experts, 75 to 85 percent of patients who receive ECT recover from their symptoms.

2. Craniotomy/Trepanation

Trepanning is an infamous surgical technique that involves removing or drilling a hole in the patient’s skull. Cave paintings point to the practice being at least 8,000 years old. The procedure was originally thought to help cure migraines, seizures, and serious psychiatric disorders.

In modern medicine, trepanation is used to relieve cranial swelling. It’s also used as a way to gain access to the brain for surgery, say to remove a tumor.

Modern surgeons don’t call the procedure trepanation but opt for craniotomy instead.

Some people undergo the procedure voluntarily in order to provide them with relief from psychiatric issues. Famously, Peter Halvorson performed trepanation on himself in 1972 with an electric drill. To this day, he is an enthusiastic supporter of the technique.

As WebMD notes, a craniectomy can save a person’s life if their brain is swelling. It may also leave them permanently disabled. A recent study found that the procedure “can drastically reduce the risk of death, with about 30 percent of patients dying following the procedure compared to 52 percent of those treated with standard medical care.

However, “people treated with a craniectomy were three times more likely to wind up in a vegetative state … and often were as likely to suffer long-term disabilities as patients receiving standard medical care.”

We think it’s pretty clear why cutting holes in people’s heads is controversial.

3. Circumcision

Circumcision is one of the most controversial topics among people today. Usually, when someone has an opinion on the topic, it’s a strong one. And when you really think about what it is, it’s not surprising.

The practice is pretty simple. A doctor or surgeon cuts off the foreskin from the penis, exposing the glans (head).

The practice has been done for thousands of years, for both health and religious reasons. The fact is, circumcision can help reduce infection, sometimes and in some babies. Not circumcising a person may improve their sexual function and pleasure.

Either way, you look at it, it is a little weird to cut off a perfectly healthy body part, just because other people do.

Since there is little medical evidence, either way, it is often a personal decision, made between parents. Some people believe it is wrong to put a baby through unnecessary pain. Some people believe it is a religious must.

However, the practice is sure to continue and sure to stay controversial.

4. Bariatric Surgery (AKA Weight Loss Surgery)

Bariatric surgery is quickly becoming an outdated term. It is more often called weight loss surgery or gastric bypass surgery. The operation is performed on patients who are morbidly obese to decrease their weight.

The procedure causes patients to lose weight by implanting removing a portion of the stomach. It’s also performed by placing a band around the stomach to restrict its size.

Studies have shown that there are very real risks of serious health complications. In a survey of 2,522 patients who had the surgery, 21.9 % developed problems during the hospital stay itself and 40% experienced issues within six months of the procedure. One out of 50 patients who have the surgery will die from complications.

The surgery is controversial for these reasons. But it is also considered a surgical fix for what is seen as a choice. Those who eat too much should work to lose the weight, rather than having a “magical” fix. Or so the argument goes.

There is, however, no doubt about the surgery’s effectiveness. Depending on the type of procedure, patients can lose between 50 and 70 percent of their excess weight. For a patient who is 500 pounds, that’s a big difference.

Between its effectiveness and the growing obesity problem in America, the surgery shows no sign of slowing. But, for many ethical and health reasons, it will more than likely remain controversial.

5. Tonsillectomy

The tonsillectomy is one of the most well-known procedures in the world. The basic idea of the surgery is to cure repeated cases of acute tonsillitis (repeated inflammation of the tonsils) by removing the lymph nodes.

The procedure was much more common in the 1980’s but has recently become popular again with diagnoses of sleep apnea. In general, the surgery has always been more common in children.

Critics of tonsillectomies claim that removing the tonsils does little to improve the symptoms in the long-term. They also argue that it causes unnecessary suffering.

Besides the pain, tonsillectomies are linked to dramatic weight gain in children, according to a recent study. The procedure increases the chances of a child becoming overweight or obese by 61 percent. In cases where the adenoids are left in. When the adenoids are removed with the tonsils, the risk goes up 136 percent.

Dolman Law Group

If you have been injured by a common medical procedure, or during a risky procedure, contact the Dolman Law Group. Our firm employs experienced medical malpractice attorneys who have handled hundreds of cases involving unnecessary injuries during medical procedures.

Dolman Law Group has an excellent success rate with cases related to medical malpractice. We only plan on adding to that list of achievements in the future.

We’re proud to represent anyone who is a victim of medical negligence or unnecessary complications. If this has happened to you or a loved one, or if you simply don’t know what steps to take next, contact us.

Call our office for a free consultation and evaluation at (727) 451-6900.

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