Early to mid-twentieth century surgical attempts to alleviate 'athetosis'

Laurie SWAN
School of Rehabilitation and Medical Sciences, Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, USA

Society has a long history of treating people with disabilities as outcasts. In the twentieth century, physicians investigated various methods of restoring people with disabilities to a ‘normal’ state. This presentation explores the attempts of early to mid-twentieth century neurosurgeons in alleviating the abnormal movement pattern called ‘athetosis’. Their attempts were severely hampered by poorly delineated nomenclature, inadequate understanding of the pathophysiology that causes hypertonicity, and inadequate control and reporting of clinical trials. The zeal of the neurosurgeons, coupled with these problems, resulted in poor clinical outcomes. The hopes and eventual disillusionment of surgery to relieve athetosis are illustrated in a case history of a young woman who underwent surgery in Minnesota in 1958.


Session X
Friday, 8 July 2005, 4.00 - 4.30 pm

Tenth Annual Meeting of the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN) and
Tenth Meeting of the European Club for the History of Neurology (ECHN)

St. Andrews, Scotland, 2005