The Gruesome World of Victorian Medicine

The Victorian era, spanning from 1837 to 1901, was a time of great progress and innovation in many areas. However, when it came to medicine, the practices and treatments of the time were often gruesome and horrifying by today’s standards. And that’s putting it in a nice way. Honestly, learning about them, it’s not too hard to understand why so many people fear doctors nowadays. So if you want to find out what it is that we’re talking about, keep reading on about Victorian Medicine.

The Role of Bloodletting and Leeches


One of the most common practices in Victorian medicine was bloodletting, which involved the intentional removal of blood from a patient’s body. It was believed that many illnesses were caused by an imbalance of the body’s humors. And bloodletting was seen as a way to restore this balance. This procedure was performed using various methods, including the use of leeches. Leeches were applied to the patient’s skin, to suck out the “bad” blood and allowing the body to heal.

While leeches are still used in modern medicine for certain purposes, their use in Victorian times was often excessive and cruel. Which resulted in significant blood loss and potential complications. Patients would often be subjected to multiple leech treatments, leading to weakened immune systems and further health complications. The belief in the healing power of bloodletting persisted well into the Victorian era, despite mounting evidence against its effectiveness.

Surgical Procedures Without Anesthesia

During the Victorian era, surgical procedures were often performed without the use of anesthesia. The concept of anesthesia was still in its early stages, and the risks and side effects associated with its use were not fully understood. As a result, patients undergoing surgery would often have to endure excruciating pain and discomfort. Surgeons would rely on restraints and brute force to immobilize patients during procedures, making the experience even more traumatic.


It wasn’t until the later part of the Victorian era that anesthesia started to be used more widely. The discovery of ether and chloroform as effective anesthetics revolutionized surgical practices and provided much-needed relief to patients undergoing surgery. However, even with the introduction of anesthesia, surgical procedures were still risky and often resulted in high mortality rates due to the lack of understanding of infection control and sterile techniques.

Questionable Medical Treatments and Remedies

In addition to bloodletting and surgical procedures, Victorian medicine was filled with a plethora of questionable treatments and remedies. For example, mercury was commonly used to treat various ailments, including syphilis. However, mercury is highly toxic and can cause severe damage to the body, leading to long-term health issues. Other treatments included the use of arsenic, opium, and even electric shock therapy. These treatments often had little scientific basis and were more based on superstition and misguided beliefs.

The lack of regulation and oversight in the medical field during the Victorian era allowed for the proliferation of these dangerous treatments. Patients would often seek out alternative remedies and treatments, hoping for a cure, but instead, they would be subjected to harmful substances and procedures that worsened their conditions.


Lack of Hygiene and Sanitation

Another disturbing aspect of Victorian medicine was the lack of hygiene and sanitation practices. Sterilization techniques were not well understood, and medical instruments were often reused without proper cleaning or disinfection. This lack of hygiene contributed to the spread of infections and diseases within hospitals and medical facilities. Patients who sought treatment for one ailment often ended up contracting additional illnesses due to the unsanitary conditions.

The lack of understanding of germ theory and the importance of cleanliness in preventing infections led to high mortality rates in hospitals and medical facilities. It wasn’t until the later part of the Victorian era that advancements in sanitation practices, such as the introduction of antiseptics by Joseph Lister, helped improve patient outcomes and reduce the spread of infections.

Kanita is a wanderlust-fueled traveler with an inclination for unraveling the mysteries of history, the paranormal, and the bizarre world of medicine. As a true crime buff, Kanita's nights are often spent delving into the depths of chilling mysteries. Yet, it's not just the paranormal that captivates her—her background in medicine fuels a fascination with the weird and wonderful world of medical oddities, from twisted historical practices to the myths and legends that shroud the field. From exploring haunted locales to uncovering the strange and morbid tales of medical history, Kanita is your guide to the unconventional, the unexplained, and the downright eerie.

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