With regard to the sphacelus of fleshy parts, it takes place in wounds where there are large blood-vessels, which have been strongly compressed, and in fractures of bones which have been bound too tight, and in other cases of immoderate constriction, when the parts which have been strangulated generally drop off; and the most of such patients recover, even when a portion of the [p. 266]
thigh comes away, or of the arm, both bones and flesh, but less so in this case; and when the fore-arm and leg drop off, the patients readily recover. In cases then, of fracture of the bones, when strangulation and blackening of the parts take place at first, the separation of the dead and living parts quickly occurs, and the parts speedily drop off, as the bones have already given way; but when the blackening (mortification
) takes place while the bones are entire, the fleshy parts, in this case, also quickly die, but the bones are slow in separating at the boundary of the blackening, and where the bones are laid bare. Those parts of the body which are below the boundaries of the blackening are to be removed at the joint, as soon as they are fairly dead and have lost their sensibility; care being taken not to wound any living part; for if the part which is cut off give pain, and if it prove not to be quite dead, there is great danger lest the patient may swoon away from the pain, and such swoonings often are immediately fatal. I have known the thigh-bones, when denuded in this manner, drop off on the eightieth day; but in the case of this patient, the parts below were separated at the knee on the twentieth day, and, as I thought, too early, for it appeared to me that this should be done more guardedly. In a case which I had of such blackening in the leg, the bones of the leg, as far as they were denuded, separated at its middle on the sixtieth day. But the separation of denuded bones is quicker or slower, according to the mode of treatment; something, too, depends upon whether the compression be stronger or weaker, and whether the nerves, flesh, arteries, and veins are quicker or slower in becoming blackened and in dying; since, when the parts are not strongly compressed, the separation is more superficial, and does not go the length of laying the bones bare, and in some cases it is still more superficial, so as not even to expose the nerves. For the reasons now stated, it is impossible to define accurately the time at which each of these cases will terminate. The treatment of such cases, however, is to be readily undertaken, for they are more formidable to look at than to treat; and a mild treatment is sufficient in all such cases, for they come to a crisis of themselves; only the diet must be attended to, so that it may be as little [p. 267]
calculated to create fever as possible, and the body is to be placed in the proper positions: these are, neither raised very high up, nor inclined much downward, but rather upward, until the separation be completed; for at that time there is most danger of hemorrhage; on this account, wounds should not be laid in a declining position, but the contrary. But after a while, and when the sores have become clean, the same positions will no longer be appropriate; but a straight position, and one inclining downward, may be proper; and in the course of time, in some of these cases, abscesses form, and require bandages. One may also expect that such patients will be attacked with dysentery; for dysentery usually supervenes in cases of mortification and of hemorrhage from wounds; it comes on generally when the blackening and hemorrhage have arrived at a crisis, and is profuse and intense, but does not last many days; neither is it of a fatal nature, for such patients do not usually lose their appetite, nor is it proper to put them on a restricted diet.