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Wound Care Through The Ages

At Skilled Wound Care, we strive to bring the best possible wound care to our patients. We stay up to date on (and often create!) best practices to create the best outcomes we can. We live in the most technologically advanced age medical care has ever seen - but of course this wasn’t always the case!

In this new series, we’ll look back at wound care in times past. In many instances in history, caregivers had to work with less than ideal tools, and often in horrendous conditions. Since medicine is always advancing, we thought we’d take a look at how far we’ve come by seeing what wound care had been through the ages.

The Later Medieval Era (c. 1100-1400): Medieval Surgery

In the later Middle Ages, hospitals were often connected to religious institutions, but were staffed by lay-people: men and women who had not taken holy orders. Their levels of medical training and expertise varied greatly. Hospitals often also functioned as guest-houses for travelers: indeed, the word “hospital” comes from the Latin word “hospes,” which means “guest,” “host,” or “stranger.”

Formal medical training, such as it was, happened within religious institutions and also in the newer universities across Europe (mostly concentrated in northern Italy, near Paris, and in Great Britain). Doctors with formal training mainly worked for the wealthy, but they wrote and circulated treatises, which functioned somewhat like our medical journals. They described patient cases, treatments, and remedies. For example, one treatise mentions a method of skull surgery that seems quite risky (a reference to divine aid in the document may hint at the outcome). On the other hand, there is archaeological evidence of a medieval person’s skull with a fracture that has healed, so having a head injury in the Middle Ages was not as fatal as one might think.

The church was very closely connected with healthcare. Monks were proficient in growing their own herbs and making their own remedies. Archaeologists and historians have discovered an herb preparation of three different kinds of seeds - henbane, opium poppy seeds, and hemlock - designed to function in medical settings. This poisonous mixture would have put a patient under for between seventy-two to ninety-six hours, and was one medieval version of anesthesia. Patients who were given this mixture had a very good chance of never waking up.

Although methods, outcomes, and approaches to medical care have changed dramatically since the Middle Ages, one thing that has remained consistent is the need for sharing knowledge, for a commitment to care, and for making the best of the tools and opportunities we have.

We hope you enjoyed this installment of Wound Care through the Ages! Stay tuned for more posts like this!

Skilled Wound Care is a mobile surgical practice committed to transforming the chronic wound care model in nursing facilities. Wound care experts make weekly bedside visits to patients in long-term care facilities, avoiding transfers to hospitals or clinics. Our expert physicians give patients the most up-to-date and effective wound treatments, and educate facility staff on how to help patients continue to heal quickly and effectively between visits. This model of collaborative care allows SWC’s physicians to improve patients’ lives and health outcomes, to empower nursing staff, and to raise public awareness. Skilled Wound Care, along with its nurse and nursing home partners, is working every day to positively transform traditional nursing home wound care.

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