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Thanksgiving 2019: Medical practice then vs now

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Happy Thanksgiving! What are you thankful for? 

This year we’re thankful for all the remarkable age-long medical innovations that have made the understanding of diseases and the practice of medicine easier, more efficient, and of course more rewarding. 

Medicine and diseases are in part still a mysterious entity. Many diseases are yet to be fully understood but we have come a long way with continuous research. It hasn’t been the fastest or most straightforward path but the improvements and discoveries have been eminent over thousands of years. The practice of medicine now is a whooooole lot different from what it was in the 1930s and we’re grateful for that. Amongst other things, we’re grateful that no one has to go through surgeries without anesthesia and for vaccines that have helped eradicate some of the world’s deadliest diseases. 

Here are some of the medical innovations we’re most grateful for:

Rapid Diagnostic Test kits

Medikoe

These have made diagnosing common tropical ailments easier and a lot quicker. Quicker diagnoses translate to quicker therapeutic interventions which in turn lowers the disease burdens of individuals and improves quality of life. Faster therapeutic interventions are especially useful in emergency situations and in healthcare facilities with limited resources. These test kits are available for illnesses like malaria, typhoid, HIV and so much more. They are revolutionary. They are used in healthcare facilities and can also be used at home. To put things into perspective, rather than waiting up to 24 hours or even days to receive a test result, you wait for just 5 to 20 minutes. 

Infrared thermometer

Amazon

I never really paid attention to this device until the Ebola outbreak happened. During the Ebola epidemic, this device was everywhere all of a sudden. It was used heavily during the Ebola outbreak, at the airports to screen passengers in high-risk countries, and also in public offices, schools, and healthcare facilities. It makes it possible to accurately measure a person’s temperature from a distance, without any physical contact that could potentially put you at risk of contracting the highly infectious disease of interest. It made disease surveillance easier and safer. They are not only used in clinical settings, they are also used at home, in schools, offices, etc. 

Antibiotics

Canada

I’ve had times when I just sat back and wondered what the world would be like without antibiotics. We’ve all taken some variation of antibiotics in our lifetime. They exist in various forms and have been instrumental in curing many common and also uncommon bacterial infections of the body. From abdominal infections to respiratory tract infections, infections of the brain and spinal cord, eyes, etc. They are also used to prevent infections, for instance before surgeries (pre-op antibiotics).

Please note that antibiotics don’t treat viral infections including a majority of sore throats. Taking antibiotics when they are not indicated can result in the dreaded antibiotic resistance. 

Defibrillator

BBC

This device right here has probably saved more lives than it gets credit for. A defibrillator is a device that is capable of alleviating life threatening cardiac arrests by sending an electric shock to the heart to reset the heart rhythm. It is commonly found in strategic locations at airports, hospitals, offices, shopping malls, train/ bus stations, and so much more. To put things into perspective, more than 350,000 cardiac arrests occurs yearly in the out-of-hospital setting in the US alone. For each minute the use of a defibrillator is delayed in a patient with cardiac arrest, the survival rate is reduced by 10%. If defibrillation is not immediately administered following a cardiac arrest, 90-95% of victims will not survive. 

Please note that cardiac arrest is different from a heart attack. With cardiac arrest, the heart stops beating completely while a heart attack means the blood supply to a portion of the heart is blocked and so that portion of the heart muscle dies. 

Medical imaging

CDC

As a medic, can you imagine properly diagnosing and treating a fracture without getting it x-rayed? Or can you imagine not having the luxury of CT scanners and MRI machines? How about going through pregnancy without an ultrasound scan? The value of medical imaging modalities is priceless and has massively improved the practice of medicine, as well as patient outcomes. 

Anesthesia

UM Today: University of Manitoba

Anesthesia was first used in the 19th century. If you’re as curious as I am, you’ll be wondering how surgeries were done prior to the 19th century without anesthesia considering illnesses that require surgery have been around wayyy before the 19th century. Prior to the 19th century, surgery was only considered as a last resort, when all else failed. In fact, people in those days opted to die rather than have surgery. But the story is different today and we’re grateful for that. 

Vaccines

Verywell Family

Vaccines are the truth! They are like a gift that keeps on giving. They have played key roles in fighting most of the world’s most deadly diseases including smallpox, rabies, cholera, and tuberculosis. Vaccines save many lives yearly. It also prevents the complications that can arise from vaccine-preventable diseases such as limb paralysis and deformity, permanent brain damage, hearing loss, limb amputation, seizures and so much more. 

There are hundreds, if not thousands of medical innovations that have made medical practice more effective and in turn, improved patient outcomes over the years.

Which ones are you most grateful for? 

Featured image: Michigan health

Dr Wendy Evans-Uhegbu

The author Dr Wendy Evans-Uhegbu

Dr. Wendy Evans-Uhegbu is a graduate of The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, with experience in Connected Health, Medical Technology, Clinical Research, Medical Education, and Web Design. She is a member of the Medics Abroad team with the role of Chief Communications Officer. She also runs a Medical Communications, Book Writing, and Publishing business, and is the author of the newly published children's book series "The Things Around Me".

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