Quest for History – Galvanization

Galvanization of the human body

Quest for History - GalvanizationFrom the Atlantic Medical and Surgical Journal of 1886 (p89-95)

Electricity as a Stimulant in Cardiac and Respiratory Failure.
A Jacobi, M.D, President presiding of the February 19, 1885 meeting

Dr. Gaspar Griswold read a paper on the above subject, beginning with the statement that electricity had ben conspicuous in the treatment of sudden prostration, attended with respiratory and cardiac failure, especially in chloroform inhalation and opium-poisoning. The object of the paper was to discuss how far the usual methods of applying electricity in such cases of collapse were in accord with what was known concerning the physiology of the heart. The term electricity was used in a general sense, including galvanism and faradism.

Morphine in poisonous doses paralyzes the pneumogastrics, and stimulation of them by electricity would not slow or depress the action of the heart.

In opium-poissoning, when the action of the heart was rapid and feel, there was less danger than in health of cardiac paralysis from stimulation of the pneumogastrics. When morphine was injected into the veins the heart was easily depressed by electricity applied to the pneumogastrics, and it would not, therefore, be safe to faradize or galvanize the phrenics in the condition, because of the certainty, almost, of stimulating at the same time the pneumogastrics.

A general conclusion reached by the author of the paper was that, under no circumstances, should an electrical current, sufficiently strong to produce contractions of the muscles in any part of the body, be applied over the phrenic or pneumogastric in the neck.

Dr. A. D. Rockwell, in general, quite agreed with the statements made by Dr Griswold, in his valuable contribution to the literature of this subject. The fact that, in the normal condition, and by purely external methods of application, the respiration was affected, rather than the heart’s action, was very readily demonstrated. In connections with this subject, he might have referred to the statements made long ago by Arloing and Tripier, that the right pneumogastric has a more powerful influence over the heart, while the left more powerfully affect respiration. However that may be, it was certain that galvanization affect the two pneumogastric nerves unequally, and in a way to confirm, to some extent, that assertion.

It had been found that, if the heart be stopped by galvanization of the exposed left pneumorgastric, the movements could be restored by some slight mechanical excitation, while, if the same result occurred through galvanization of the right pneumogastric, it seemed impossible to again exited the pulsations. These, certainly, seemed to be the effects of sedation rather than of stimulation, but that the effects that followed were powerfully stimulant and tonic could not be doubted.

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