Monday, Apr. 26, 2010

Bloodletting (phlebotomy)

Bloodletting — the practice of withdrawing often copious amounts of blood — was widely practiced during medieval times as a panacea for everything from the black plague to acne. Offering a trim and a trickle, a barber surgeon was the go to guy for all your bloodletting needs. (The red stripe on a barber's pole finds its origins in the profession's bloodletting past.) Medieval bloodletting methods ranged from fire cupping to simply puncturing an artery. By the 19th century, one particularly menacing contraption called the scarifacator came into vogue. Today, therapeutic phlebotomies are performed (albeit through a gentler procedure involving a syringe) to treat hemochromatosis, a condition where a person absorbs too much iron.