An anonymous editorial writer of unknown qualifications dispensed medical advice in the Minneapolis Tribune:

THE APPENDICITIS FAD.

Not long ago we gave a brief summary of the views of an ex-Minnesota physician, expressed through the Medical Record, to the effect that the much-dreaded modern disease of appendicitis is simply an old-fashioned stomach or bowel pain; that it can be cured, in nine times out of ten, by proper medication, and that no surgical operation is necessary. He gives a record of a large number of cases treated by him with simple calomel and soda purgation, every one of which recovered without the use of the knife.
 
And here comes Dr. E. J. Miller, of Scotland, S.D., as quoted in the Sioux City Journal, who says:
 
“I saw in the Journal the other day the statement of some leading physician that the trouble is that operations for the ailment are postponed too long, and the fatalities which are so frequently recorded are due, not to the operation, but to the delay in having it performed. He remarked further that many people are in absolute dread of the surgeon. Is it any wonder?
 
“Up to ten years ago not one person in 100,000 had ever heard the word ‘appendicitis.’ It was not to be found in any medical dictionary or text book. Now it is bandied by man, woman and child, and appears as a topic in daily conversation, and in prose and poetry, and is referred to in connection with every colicky pain which may be suffered.”
 
Dr. Miller goes on to say that a large number of the cases in which the patient dies from the effects of an operation the reported disease is appendicitis, and that statistical results gathered in the practice of the best French physicians show that over 90 per cent of all cases of appendicitis recover without any operation. Dr. Guttman shows that only 5 per cent die if the treatment be merely medical and good judgment be excercised. Drs. Loomis and Thompson say: “We believe that in the near future physicians and surgeons will regain their mental poise, and will treat appendicitis with the same good sense and judgment and with the same conservative regard for life and interests of the patients that they do other diseases.”
 
Not long ago we saw an anecdote of a man who borrowed medical books and read up on appendicitis. Presently he experienced a pain in some portion of his vital anatomy and rushed to his family physician with the complaint that he was afflicted with appendicitis. The doctor questioned him, found him suspiciously familiar with the current literature on the disease, and asked him what he had been reading. The patient confessed that he had been studying medical books, whereupon the wise physician told him to go home, take a slight purgative and forget all about the matter. He assured him that medical students, when they first begin their studies, usually imagine themselves afflicted with all the diseases they read about.
 
This anecdote gives point to the question if it is not time to call a halt to the operations for appendicitis and to the current alarmist literature on the subject. A physician cannot know that his patient will die if he is not operated on, and he knows that in case of an operation the chances for a funeral are first-class. Better try soothing assurances and proper medication before resorting to the knife.
 

This operation (probably at St. Marys Hospital in Rochester, Minn.) drew a crowd of well-dressed but probably unsanitized spectators in about 1900. (Photo courtesy mnhs.org)

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