As reported by Daily Mail, when an unnamed 86 year-old woman in Florida went to the hospital with “burning in her stomach and upper chest,” she wasn’t thinking about an unusual medical procedure she had received at least sixty years prior to her emergency room visit. At first, the doctors figured she was simply suffering from acid reflux, but decided to take an x-ray in case something else was amiss. That’s when they discovered an unusual mass in her left lung. But it wasn’t just any normal build up of fluid.
While the elderly patient couldn’t recall the exact year, she figured she was in her early twenties when the doctors had treated her for tuberculosis (TB) by injecting oil into her lungs. According to her attending physician, Dr. Abhilash Koratala, who is also an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Florida, this procedure is called oleothorax and was a common treatment up until the 1950s, when “effective antibiotics to TB were discovered.”
Dr. Koratala described his discovery in the New England Journal of Medicine:
“. . . a treatment for pulmonary tuberculosis, abandoned long ago, that involved the instillation of oil into the pleural space to collapse the involved lung.” The type of oil used, as reported by Atsjournals.org., would consist of “paraffin or olive oil . . . with gomenol added for bactericidal effects.”
The oil, once injected, would usually be absorbed by the lymphatic tissues and blood cells. But the idea of the oleothorax procedure was to collapse the infected lung, to give “it a chance to rest and help kill the TB bacteria.” Following the treatment, which lasted about two years, the patients were supposed to have the oil aspirated out of their lungs. But, as this women experienced, patients either got better or moved on and forgot all about the oil hanging out inside their lung’s pleural cavity.
Oleothorax was an accepted form of treatment since the time of Hippocrates. It’s unfortunate that the natural alternatives for lung health weren’t well-known. Thanks to Sciencedirect.com, here’s a brief comment about oleothorax from physicians at the Charing Cross Hospital and the London Hospital for the Diseases of Heart and Lungs. The year was 1927:
“The injection of oil into the pleural cavity is no new thing. Hippocrates in his beautiful description of his treatment of empyena [also known as pleurisy], advocates the injection of warm oil after aspiration.”
The woman in Florida isn’t the only one with this discovery. Atsjournals.org discusses a 91-year-old patient at the Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn, New York who had taken a fall. When physicians ordered a CT scan, they discovered that an oleothorax injection had been performed decades earlier. They also detailed additional complications that can result from this procedure. If the oleothorax ruptures, the leakage of oil can result in “tuberculous empyema, pleurocutaneous and bronchopleural fistula.” If the oil isn’t removed, fractures of the rib can result from the fatty tissue that envelopes the “surrounding osseous structures.”
It’s clear that there are elderly persons still living who may be carrying around a sack of oil in their lungs. It is important for today’s health care workers to be cognizant of the difficulties resulting from this abandoned medical procedure.
RELATED: Discover paths to health without injections at Healing.news.
(Photo credit: www.Dailymail.uk.co)