This section is from the book "A Treatise On Therapeutics, And Pharmacology Or Materia Medica Vol1", by George B. Wood. Also available from Amazon: Part 1 and Part 2.
Under this head may be enumerated a considerable number of affections in which electricity has been found more or less useful.
In asphyxia and syncope it may be resorted to in reference to the shock upon the system, and, in the former, to promote contraction of the diaphragm. In asphyxia, or a state approaching it, arising from narcotic poisoning, especially that from opium, it has been employed, with striking success, in several cases, among which may be mentioned one recorded by Dr. Page, of Valparaiso, and a second by Dr. James Russel, of London. Electro-magnetism was used in both these cases, the direction being, in one case, from one side to the other through the heart; in the other, from the back of the neck to the sternum, by which respiration was restored. In asphyxia from drowning, a current of galvanism has been passed into the diaphragm, by cutting down to the muscle below the seventh rib, with the apparent effect of saving life. Acupuncture would probably have answered the same purpose. In these cases of asphyxia and syncope, it is probable that the mere shock upon the nervous centres, occasioned by pain, has great influence in rousing the patient; and, for the production of this effect, nothing is more powerful, prompt, and safe than the electro-magnetic current with rapid intermissions.*
Artificial respiration, when desirable, may be most conveniently produced, according to M. Duchenne, by calling the diaphragm into action, through a vigorous impression on the phrenic nerve, where it passes the anterior scalenus muscle. This nerve, after the union of its three roots, descends from without inwardly before the anterior surface of the scalenus. It is at this point that it is necessary to make the requisite application. Some difficulty is thrown in the way by the sterno-mastoid and platysma-myoid muscles, which cover the scalenus. But by depressing the skin from without inwards, with two fingers placed along the outer border of the clavicular fasciculus of the sterno-mastoid, then separating the fingers, and maintaining the pressure, access may be obtained to the anterior surface of the scalenus, without the interposition of the other muscles. One of the excitors is to be placed between the fingers, in such a manner as to cross the direction of the phrenic nerve. While an assistant holds the instrument in this position, the second excitor is to be similarly applied on the opposite side. Then the operator takes hold of both by their isolated handles, and the machine is set in motion. Any of the inductive machines will answer the purpose, if properly graduated, and of very rapid intermissions. The excitors should end in a small metallic cone, which should be covered with moist leather. The instant that the current is passed, the lower ribs expand, the abdominal walls rise, and air rushes with sound into the lungs. After a second or two, the current is broken, the walls of the chest subside, and expiration takes place. To complete the expiration, an assistant presses upon the chest and abdomen. In another second, the operation is resumed; and this artificial respiration, perfectly imitating the natural, may be kept up as long as may be necessary. (Electrisation Localisee, pp. 485-6 )
* A remarkable case of resuscitation after drowning, by means of the induction apparatus, and electro-acupuncture, by Dr. A. C. Garratt, of Boston, is recorded in the Boston Med. and Surg. Journ. (Sept. 5, 1861, p. 89). It is well worth perusal, as an example of success rewarding faithful and long-continued effort, under apparently the most discouraging circumstances. (Note to the third edition).
In poisoning from opium and other narcotics, even when threatening symptoms of asphyxia have not yet appeared, the painful excitation of the electro-magnetic machine is useful, independently of its influence on respiration, by stimulating the nervous centres, and sustaining life until the action of the poison has passed. A case of this kind has been reported by Dr. Bullock, of Wilmington, Delaware. (Am. Journ. of Med. Sci., N. S., xxviii. 575).
In general muscular relaxation, the excitant influence of electricity may perhaps sometimes be usefully employed, by rapidly faradising the different muscles successively.
In debility of various functions it has been used with supposed, and no doubt often with real benefit.
In dyspepsia, a current of galvanism may be passed from the nape of the neck to the epigastrium, or immediately through the stomach, from before backward.
Torpid liver may be treated in the same way, the current being sent in various directions through the organ, so as to traverse the whole of it as far as possible.
Suppression of the secretion of milk is said to yield frequently to faradisation of the mamma, sometimes after three or four daily applications of the remedy. It should not be carried so far as to occasion contraction of the pectoral muscles, or severe pain. Each operation may continue fifteen or twenty minutes. The induced current is here the most effective.
Constipation dependent on inertia of the bowels has often been treated advantageously with electricity. Allusion has already been made, under palsy of the rectum, to the mode of treating it when arising from that cause. In other cases, the current may be made to pass from the fundament, or from an excitor introduced into the rectum, to the pit of the stomach, or to various points over the surface of the abdomen; or it may be directed through the bowels from before backward, or from side to side.
Amenorrhoea has been treated by electricity with great success. Dr. Golding Bird states that he has never known it to fail in exciting menstruation. when the uterus was capable of performing that function. (Lond. Med. Gaz., June, 1847.) After proper attention to the genera] health, a dozen shocks of the Leyden jar were passed through the organ, from the sacrum to the pubes, and the measure was repeated daily, if necessary.
Flooding after delivery is said to have been effectually controlled by galvanism, which produces contraction of the uterus. Dr. Radford, who has employed the remedy for this purpose, states that it may be bo applied as to excite not only tonic, but also intermittent contraction, and suggests it as a means of hastening tedious labours. He used a machine, applying one pole to the os uteri, and the other to the walls of the abdomen over the fundus. The conductor introduced into the vagina must be covered with a non-conducting material, except at it.- extremity. (Prov. Med. Journ., Dec. 1844.) Dr. F. W. Mackenzie has found a tained galvanic current, sent through the uterus longitudinally from the upper portion of the spinal cord, to be very useful in promoting contraction of the uterus in hemorrhage with threatened abortion and. in cases of placenta praevia, in facilitating delivery and preventing hemorrhage. (Med. Times and Gaz , March, 1858, p. 271 )
In a cool, dry, inactive state of the skin, especially when connected with interior disease, much benefit may be expected from electric stimulation of the surface, which is accomplished, in the mildest method, by withdrawing spark from the body in the electrical bath; in the severest. through the agency of the electro-magnetic machine, and M. Duchenne's wire excitor; and, in intermediate grades, by the different arrangements at command. Indeed, electricity, in its various forms and modes of application, affords to a practitioner, suitably provided with apparatus, a powerful method of revulsion to the surface, of which he may avail himself in a great number of diseased conditions.
Indolent ulcers may be stimulated into a healing condition by making their surfaces the recipient of the galvanic current, either through the moist sponge excitor, or their own wet dressings connected with one of the poles, or by covering them with a plate of silver or copper forming one of the constituents of a galvanic arrangement, of which a zinc plate, applied to another portion of the surface, and connected with it by a wire, may form another.
Opacity of the cornea may, according to Dr. Althaus, be generally cured by faradisation, which is greatly preferable to ordinary galvanism for this purpose, because so much less likely to disturb the retina. The negative pole should be applied over the closed eye, and the positive held in the hand of the patient. The application may continue fifteen minutes, and be repeated every other day. A cure may be expected in from one to three months. (Med. T. and Gaz., Sept. 1862. p. 271).
In the photophobia of scrofulous ophthalmia in children, extraordinary success has been obtained by Dr. Addinell Hewson, of Philadelphia, from the ordinary galvanic current, applied over the supra-orbital branch of the fifth nerve. He made use of Pulvermacher's chain battery of sixty links, using vinegar as the exciting agent. The applications were usually made every three or four days, and for a minute or two each time; but they might be repeated daily without disadvantage. Great relief followed the first application, and a cure was in general effected. (Am. J. of Med. Sci, Jan. 1860, p. 114).