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The Physician's Guide, and Advice to People in general, with
respect to their Health ; being a popular Dissertation on Fevers, Inflamvations, and all Diseases connected with then; comprising Observations on the Use and Abuse of Bloodletting, Mercury, Catharlics, Stimulants, Diet, &c. &c. By Adam Dods, M.D. Author of an Introductory Essay to a
Series on Blood-letting, &c.---pp. 322. Worcester. 1821. We never like to see long titles fronting works, because we are led to expect a great deal, but are often disappointed. We not only dislike the length of the title of the present work, but we dislike the nature of it also; for if a work be perfect enough to guide physicians, it cannot be expected that " people in general" can well comprehend it. Medical subjects, in particular, should be treated either philosophically, or else entirely in a popular manner; because there is a great difference between enquiring minutely into the relations subsisting between cause and effect in the process of disease, and giving a popular and superficial view of some of its external characters. There is no branch of philosophy so abstruse as that connected with an enquiry into the changes which the living body undergoes while under the influence of disease, as it requires not only a knowledge of the laws which govern the agencies of tangible matter in general, but also an inductive knowledge of those which influence it in an insensible form, because neither disease itself, nor the principle upon which it acts, is a sensible object. As, therefore, it is expected that every member of the profession is in some degree acquainted with the laws which regulate the actions of disease ; and, as it cannot be expected that “ people in general” are capable of comparing the character of external symptoms with the changes which the internal parts undergo, from a want of knowledge of the relative situations and vital connections of these parts, a work which is worth the perusal to a medical practitioner, educated in the knowledge of the present day, can convey no great deal of intelligible information to those who have never studied the structure of the human body.
Dr. Dods commences his work with the subject of inflammation ; and asserts, "that inflammation, or inflammatory excitement, is neither more nor less than excitement of nerves, with a distension of the blood-ressels, to which may be added a chemical change of the blood, especially if the nerves continue any length of time morbidly attected," &c.
It is very probable that no part of the body can undergo the process of intlammation without afiecting, in some degree, the nerves of that part, so as to give rise to pain; but this admission is different from that of the nerves being the primary cause of the inflammation. We have no proof of the nerves being endowed with the power of influencing a part when disconnected with their centre, so as to render it capable of producing the phenomena dependent upon it in a healthy state; yet any one may prove, that all the properties of inflammation, except pain, may be rendered apparent in a limb whose principal nerves have been divided. If we appeal to the vegetable kingdom also, where no nerves exist. we shall find that effects analogous with those of inflammation, are often produced. Increased actions take place in the vessels of plants, dependent on their principle of life, and the effects of these actions are enlargement of their fibrous texture, or of their bark, forming external excrescences and protuberances.
Before the phenomena of inflammation, then, can be accounted for, we must attribute them to some principle common to animals and vegetables. The question then is, does inflammation depend on an increased, or diminished, action of the arteries, or of the heart, or, lastly, of both? This question would lead to a very extensive discussion, which we have no room at present to prosecute, but we may be allowed to notice that the action of the heart alone will not account for local inflammation ; and that, allowing the arteries to be endowed with a power of action independent of the heart, they could not assume an increased activity which does not first originate in the vital department of their constitution.
After treating of the nature of inflammation, Dr. Dods enters upon the subject of its treatment; but as nothing new is divulged with respect to that point, it is unnecessary to make any comment upon it.
The next subject which the author treats is that of Typhus Fever. After giving the history and causes of the disease with much correctness, he enters upon the subject of contagion. He believes, and very justly too, that typhus generally becomes contagious from negligence and want of cleanliness. When the disease becomes prevalent in the autumn, it generally breaks out first in narrow and crowded streets, amongst the lowest class of mankind; but there is very little doubt of its ultimately generating an infectious principle, capable of giving rise to the disease in others, however so much attention they may pay to ventilation and cleanliness; but due regard to these will generally diminish its violence, and render its termination favourable. Dr. D. then proceeds to describe the symptoms of typhus, and the best manner of preventing the disease; and, lastly, its treatment when it has taken place, which he does in an able manner, and with much discrimina