“First, do no harm,” is one of the main principles guiding health care professionals. While these words are not part of the Hippocratic Oath, they form the basis of what physicians are generally taught. While treating a disease is important, the consequences of those treatments should be carefully weighed against their benefits.
Over the course of history, many medical practices have come and gone for various reasons, including changes in medical theory, evidence that the risks of a treatment outweigh the potential benefits, or simply the discovery of new or better techniques.
In general, the practices that go out of favor, stay out of favor. But occasionally, something old that has been debunked is found to have significant use in another application. Lobotomies, once thought to be a cure for schizophrenia, have been repurposed to treat seizures; arsenic, used in tonics and in largely unsubstantiated herbal remedies, is now a life-saving treatment for blood cancer.
Practices such as these were stopped because they were not sufficiently studied before they were implemented, and with use were found to do more harm than good. Yet, once adequate research into these techniques was conducted, some of these older practices were found to have value in another application.
Below is a list of seven medical treatments or practices common in the past that, after years of no longer being practiced, have become important in modern medical care.