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Medical MysteriesMedical Mysteries

Medical Mysteries

Medical Mysteries

The most startling medical breakthroughs often begin with a troubling symptom, a puzzled patient, and a persistent doctor. Medical Mysteries, a special issue from Discover magazine, takes you inside the minds of doctors-turned-detective as they unravel astonishing medical riddles.

Country:
United States
Language:
English
Publisher:
Kalmbach Publishing Co. - Magazines
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IN THIS ISSUE

access_time2 min.
editor’s note

i collapsed at the breakfast table one hot morning in the summer of 1977. I had a fever — 104 and climbing — with nausea, vomiting and terrible aches and pains soon to follow. I was 9 years old and occasionally got high fevers like this. The fever didn’t alarm my mother. What alarmed her was how suddenly it had come on. And she’d never known me to get sick like this in the heart of summer. We had just moved to a small town in the Midwest and didn’t yet have a regular doctor, but Mom took me to three of them in the next 24 hours in an effort to find one who was willing to take more than five minutes before making a snap diagnosis. The first one…

access_time8 min.
simple sickness gone awry

When 43-year-old Barbara Harris found herself panting as she climbed the steps to her front door, she knew something was wrong. She was overweight and had high blood pressure, but she’d never been sick like this. In the hospital, she was shocked when her doctors told her she was suffering from mild congestive heart failure. Because her high blood pressure had gone untreated for years, her heart muscle had been damaged and was now unable to pump enough blood for her body’s needs. Blood returning to the heart was backing up, resulting in fluid buildup in her lungs and making her short of breath. She also had a mild heart murmur, probably a remnant of a childhood bout with rheumatic fever. An echocardiogram (an ultrasound of the heart) confirmed that her…

access_time6 min.
the man with the mustache

it was my first day as an attending physician. Nervousness and excitement competed for the most prominent emotion inside me. I was assigned a medical ward full of patients, each an enigma, each a challenge. I introduced myself to the students, interns and residents as I entered the conference room where we would begin hospital rounds. Jane, the senior medical resident, began her report on the toughest case on our service. “Mr. Peterson is a previously healthy 61-year-old man who presented two weeks ago to his primary care physician complaining of protracted vomiting and diarrhea. All outpatient testing was normal.” Jane paused to retrieve the patient’s chart. “Every test known to man was normal.” “There are always more tests,” I said, smiling. “So why is he in the hospital?” “Dehydration,” said Jane. “Every few hours,…

access_time8 min.
mind the signs

a patient walks into a doctor’s office. “What brings you here?” asks the doc. “Well, I’m not sure,” says the man, “but it hurts when I touch my shoulder, it hurts when I touch my knee, it hurts when I touch my ankle and it hurts when I touch my nose.” The doctor checks the man over closely before pronouncing his diagnosis: “You have a broken finger.” If you saw that one coming a mile away, then take a crack at the following quiz questions and really test your medical mettle. SYMPTOMS QUIZ 1. YOU HAVE THE FOLLOWING SYMPTOMS: • Explosive vomiting and diarrhea, often at the same time.• Severe nausea and stomach cramping.• Low-grade fever.• Shivers, chills and muscle ache. Which of these is the most likely explanation? A An impending visit from your mother-in-law. B A norovirus. C…

access_time7 min.
normal fatigue? hardly

it was the end of August when Thad returned from his Caribbean honeymoon, sporting a rich tan and a look of contentment. But as he sat in my exam room, he complained to me that he felt tired. “Tired after a honeymoon?” I said. “Sounds about right.” “No, it’s not that,” he said with a smile. “This is not like any kind of tired I’ve felt before.” Healthy and fit his entire life, Thad was a young physician about to begin his orthopedic specialty training. I trusted him to be an accurate observer, and so I inquired about other possible symptoms he might have had. Then I examined him for evidence of conditions that can cause fatigue, like anemia. All was in order, I reassured him, but just to be certain,…

access_time16 min.
14 tools that changed medicine

in the earliest days of medicine, people needed a trip to the doctor like a hole in the head. Because that’s exactly what they got: Healers and witch doctors were downright wanton in their use of trepanning — the practice of sharpening a stone to cut away a section of skull in fully conscious patients. Trepanning was done to relieve headaches, remove fractured skull fragments, provide spirits with an easy entrance or escape, sometimes just to provide rondelles — the leftover bony disks valued as charms or talismans. At 7,000 years old, the stone trephine is considered the earliest surgical tool, but it’s not its antiquity that makes it important; it’s how the concept has remained relevant from the Neolithic to the now. Modern neurosurgeons don’t dangle rondelles around their necks,…

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