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Title: An Essay on the Shaking Palsy
Author: Parkinson, James
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "An Essay on the Shaking Palsy" ***

                    AN ESSAY ON THE SHAKING PALSY.


                          _JAMES PARKINSON,_




                           _Goswell Street,_

                    FOR SHERWOOD, NEELY, AND JONES,

                           PATERNOSTER ROW.



The advantages which have been derived from the caution with which
hypothetical statements are admitted, are in no instance more obvious
than in those sciences which more particularly belong to the healing
art. It therefore is necessary, that some conciliatory explanation
should be offered for the present publication: in which, it is
acknowledged, that mere conjecture takes the place of experiment; and,
that analogy is the substitute for anatomical examination, the only
sure foundation for pathological knowledge.

When, however, the nature of the subject, and the circumstances under
which it has been here taken up, are considered, it is hoped that the
offering of the following pages to the attention of the medical
public, will not be severely censured. The disease, respecting which
the present inquiry is made, is of a nature highly afflictive.
Notwithstanding which, it has not yet obtained a place in the
classification of nosologists; some have regarded its characteristic
symptoms as distinct and different diseases, and others have given its
name to diseases differing essentially from it; whilst the unhappy
sufferer has considered it as an evil, from the domination of which he
had no prospect of escape.

The disease is of long duration: to connect, therefore, the symptoms
which occur in its later stages with those which mark its
commencement, requires a continuance of observation of the same case,
or at least a correct history of its symptoms, even for several years.
Of both these advantages the writer has had the opportunities of
availing himself; and has hence been led particularly to observe
several other cases in which the disease existed in different stages
of its progress. By these repeated observations, he hoped that he had
been led to a probable conjecture as to the nature of the malady, and
that analogy had suggested such means as might be productive of
relief, and perhaps even of cure, if employed before the disease had
been too long established. He therefore considered it to be a duty to
submit his opinions to the examination of others, even in their
present state of immaturity and imperfection.

To delay their publication did not, indeed, appear to be warrantable.
The disease had escaped particular notice; and the task of
ascertaining its nature and cause by anatomical investigation, did not
seem likely to be taken up by those who, from their abilities and
opportunities, were most likely to accomplish it. That these friends
to humanity and medical science, who have already unveiled to us many
of the morbid processes by which health and life is abridged, might be
excited to extend their researches to this malady, was much desired;
and it was hoped, that this might be procured by the publication of
these remarks.

Should the necessary information be thus obtained, the writer will
repine at no censure which the precipitate publication of mere
conjectural suggestions may incur; but shall think himself fully
rewarded by having excited the attention of those, who may point out
the most appropriate means of relieving a tedious and most distressing


        CHAP. I.

        CHAP. II.

COACTUS—SCELOTYRBE FESTINANS                                  19

        CHAP. III.

WITH WHICH IT MAY BE CONFOUNDED                               27

        CHAP. IV.

CASES                                                         33

        CHAP. V.


                    AN ESSAY ON THE SHAKING PALSY.

                              CHAPTER I.


                 SHAKING PALSY. (_Paralysis Agitans._)

     Involuntary tremulous motion, with lessened muscular power,
     in parts not in action and even when supported; with a
     propensity to bend the trunk forwards, and to pass from a
     walking to a running pace: the senses and intellects being

The term Shaking Palsy has been vaguely employed by medical writers in
general. By some it has been used to designate ordinary cases of
Palsy, in which some slight tremblings have occurred; whilst by others
it has been applied to certain anomalous affections, not belonging to

The shaking of the limbs belonging to this disease was particularly
noticed, as will be seen when treating of the symptoms, by Galen, who
marked its peculiar character by an appropriate term. The same
symptom, it will also be seen, was accurately treated of by Sylvius de
la Boë. Juncker also seems to have referred to this symptom: having
divided tremor into active and passive, he says of the latter, “ad
affectus semiparalyticos pertinent; de qualibus hic agimus, quique
_tremores paralytoidei_ vocantur.” Tremor has been adopted, as a
genus, by almost every nosologist; but always unmarked, in their
several definitions, by such characters as would embrace this disease.
The celebrated Cullen, with his accustomed accuracy observes,
“Tremorem, utpote semper symptomaticum, in numerum generum recipere
nollem; species autem a Sauvagesio recensitas, prout mihi vel astheniæ
vel paralysios, vel convulsionis symptomata esse videntur, his
subjungam[1].” Tremor can indeed only be considered as a symptom,
although several species of it must be admitted. In the present
instance, the agitation produced by the peculiar species of tremor,
which here occurs, is chosen to furnish the epithet by which this
species of Palsy, may be distinguished.

    [Footnote 1: Synopsis Nosologiæ Methodicæ.—Tom. ii. p. 195.]


So slight and nearly imperceptible are the first inroads of this
malady, and so extremely slow is its progress, that it rarely happens,
that the patient can form any recollection of the precise period of
its commencement. The first symptoms perceived are, a slight sense of
weakness, with a proneness to trembling in some particular part;
sometimes in the head, but most commonly in one of the hands and arms.
These symptoms gradually increase in the part first affected; and at
an uncertain period, but seldom in less than twelvemonths or more, the
morbid influence is felt in some other part. Thus assuming one of the
hands and arms to be first attacked, the other, at this period
becomes similarly affected. After a few more months the patient is
found to be less strict than usual in preserving an upright posture:
this being most observable whilst walking, but sometimes whilst
sitting or standing. Sometime after the appearance of this symptom,
and during its slow increase, one of the legs is discovered slightly
to tremble, and is also found to suffer fatigue sooner than the leg of
the other side: and in a few months this limb becomes agitated by
similar tremblings, and suffers a similar loss of power.

Hitherto the patient will have experienced but little inconvenience;
and befriended by the strong influence of habitual endurance, would
perhaps seldom think of his being the subject of disease, except when
reminded of it by the unsteadiness of his hand, whilst writing or
employing himself in any nicer kind of manipulation. But as the
disease proceeds, similar employments are accomplished with
considerable difficulty, the hand failing to answer with exactness to
the dictates of the will. Walking becomes a task which cannot be
performed without considerable attention. The legs are not raised to
that height, or with that promptitude which the will directs, so that
the utmost care is necessary to prevent frequent falls.

At this period the patient experiences much inconvenience, which
unhappily is found daily to increase. The submission of the limbs to
the directions of the will can hardly ever be obtained in the
performance of the most ordinary offices of life. The fingers cannot
be disposed of in the proposed directions, and applied with certainty
to any proposed point. As time and the disease proceed, difficulties
increase: writing can now be hardly at all accomplished; and reading,
from the tremulous motion, is accomplished with some difficulty.
Whilst at meals the fork not being duly directed frequently fails to
raise the morsel from the plate: which, when seized, is with much
difficulty conveyed to the mouth. At this period the patient seldom
experiences a suspension of the agitation of his limbs. Commencing,
for instance in one arm, the wearisome agitation is borne until
beyond sufferance, when by suddenly changing the posture it is for a
time stopped in that limb, to commence, generally, in less than a
minute in one of the legs, or in the arm of the other side. Harassed
by this tormenting round, the patient has recourse to walking, a mode
of exercise to which the sufferers from this malady are in general
partial; owing to their attention being thereby somewhat diverted from
their unpleasant feelings, by the care and exertion required to ensure
its safe performance.

But as the malady proceeds, even this temporary mitigation of
suffering from the agitation of the limbs is denied. The propensity to
lean forward becomes invincible, and the patient is thereby forced to
step on the toes and fore part of the feet, whilst the upper part of
the body is thrown so far forward as to render it difficult to avoid
falling on the face. In some cases, when this state of the malady is
attained, the patient can no longer exercise himself by walking in his
usual manner, but is thrown on the toes and forepart of the feet;
being, at the same time, irresistibly impelled to take much quicker
and shorter steps, and thereby to adopt unwillingly a running pace. In
some cases it is found necessary entirely to substitute running for
walking; since otherwise the patient, on proceeding only a very few
paces, would inevitably fall.

In this stage, the sleep becomes much disturbed. The tremulous motion
of the limbs occur during sleep, and augment until they awaken the
patient, and frequently with much agitation and alarm. The power of
conveying the food to the mouth is at length so much impeded that he
is obliged to consent to be fed by others. The bowels, which had been
all along torpid, now, in most cases, demand stimulating medicines of
very considerable power: the expulsion of the fæces from the rectum
sometimes requiring mechanical aid. As the disease proceeds towards
its last stage, the trunk is almost permanently bowed, the muscular
power is more decidedly diminished, and the tremulous agitation
becomes violent. The patient walks now with great difficulty, and
unable any longer to support himself with his stick, he dares not
venture on this exercise, unless assisted by an attendant, who walking
backwards before him, prevents his falling forwards, by the pressure
of his hands against the fore part of his shoulders. His words are now
scarcely intelligible; and he is not only no longer able to feed
himself, but when the food is conveyed to the mouth, so much are the
actions of the muscles of the tongue, pharynx, &c. impeded by impaired
action and perpetual agitation, that the food is with difficulty
retained in the mouth until masticated; and then as difficultly
swallowed. Now also, from the same cause, another very unpleasant
circumstance occurs: the saliva fails of being directed to the back
part of the fauces, and hence is continually draining from the mouth,
mixed with the particles of food, which he is no longer able to clear
from the inside of the mouth.

As the debility increases and the influence of the will over the
muscles fades away, the tremulous agitation becomes more vehement. It
now seldom leaves him for a moment; but even when exhausted nature
seizes a small portion of sleep, the motion becomes so violent as not
only to shake the bed-hangings, but even the floor and sashes of the
room. The chin is now almost immoveably bent down upon the sternum.
The slops with which he is attempted to be fed, with the saliva, are
continually trickling from the mouth. The power of articulation is
lost. The urine and fæces are passed involuntarily; and at the last,
constant sleepiness, with slight delirium, and other marks of extreme
exhaustion, announce the wished-for release.

                                CASE I.

Almost every circumstance noted in the preceding description, was
observed in a case which occurred several years back, and which, from
the particular symptoms which manifested themselves in its progress;
from the little knowledge of its nature, acknowledged to be possessed
by the physician who attended; and from the mode of its termination;
excited an eager wish to acquire some further knowledge of its nature
and cause.

The subject of this case was a man rather more than fifty years of
age, who had industriously followed the business of a gardener,
leading a life of remarkable temperance and sobriety. The commencement
of the malady was first manifested by a slight trembling of the left
hand and arm, a circumstance which he was disposed to attribute to his
having been engaged for several days in a kind of employment requiring
considerable exertion of that limb. Although repeatedly questioned, he
could recollect no other circumstance which he could consider as
having been likely to have occasioned his malady. He had not suffered
much from Rheumatism, or been subject to pains of the head, or had
ever experienced any sudden seizure which could be referred to
apoplexy or hemiplegia. In this case, every circumstance occurred
which has been mentioned in the preceding history.

                               CASE II.

The subject of the case which was next noticed was casually met with
in the street. It was a man sixty-two years of age; the greater part
of whose life had been spent as an attendant at a magistrate's office.
He had suffered from the disease about eight or ten years. All the
extremities were considerably agitated, the speech was very much
interrupted, and the body much bowed and shaken. He walked almost
entirely on the fore part of his feet, and would have fallen every
step if he had not been supported by his stick. He described the
disease as having come on very gradually, and as being, according to
his full assurance, the consequence of considerable irregularities in
his mode of living, and particularly of indulgence in spirituous
liquors. He was the inmate of a poor-house of a distant parish, and
being fully assured of the incurable nature of his complaint, declined
making any attempts for relief.

                               CASE III.

The next case was also noticed casually in the street. The subject of
it was a man of about sixty-five years of age, of a remarkable
athletic frame. The agitation of the limbs, and indeed of the head and
of the whole body, was too vehement to allow it to be designated as
trembling. He was entirely unable to walk; the body being so bowed,
and the head thrown so forward, as to oblige him to go on a continued
run, and to employ his stick every five or six steps to force him more
into an upright posture, by projecting the point of it with great
force against the pavement. He stated, that he had been a sailor, and
attributed his complaints to having been for several months confined
in a Spanish prison, where he had, during the whole period of his
confinement, lain upon the bare damp earth. The disease had here
continued so long, and made such a progress, as to afford little or no
prospect of relief. He besides was a poor mendicant, requiring as well
as the means of medical experiment, those collateral aids which he
could only obtain in an hospital. He was therefore recommended to make
trial if any relief could, in that mode, be yielded him. The poor man,
however, appeared to be by no means disposed to make the experiment.

                               CASE IV.

The next case which presented itself was that of a gentleman about
fifty-five years, who had first experienced the trembling of the arms
about five years before. His application was on account of a
considerable degree of inflammation over the lower ribs on the left
side, which terminated in the formation of matter beneath the fascia.
About a pint was removed on making the necessary opening; and a
considerable quantity discharged daily for two or three weeks. On his
recovery from this, no change appeared to have taken place in his
original complaint; and the opportunity of learning its future
progress was lost by his removal to a distant part of the country.

                                CASE V.

In another case, the particulars of which could not be obtained, and
the gentleman, the lamented subject of which was only seen at a
distance, one of the characteristic symptoms of this malady, the
inability for motion, except in a running pace, appeared to exist in
an extraordinary degree. It seemed to be necessary that the gentleman
should be supported by his attendant, standing before him with a hand
placed on each shoulder, until, by gently swaying backward and
forward, he had placed himself in equipoise; when, giving the word, he
would start in a running pace, the attendant sliding from before him
and running forward, being ready to receive him and prevent his
falling, after his having run about twenty paces.

                               CASE VI.

In a case which presented itself to observation since those
above-mentioned, every information as to the progress of the malady
was very readily obtained. The gentleman who was the subject of it is
seventy-two years of age. He has led a life of temperance, and has
never been exposed to any particular situation or circumstance which
he can conceive likely to have occasioned, or disposed to this
complaint; which he rather seems to regard as incidental upon his
advanced age, than as an object of medical attention. He however
recollects, that about twenty years ago, he was troubled with
lumbago, which was severe and lasted some time. About eleven or
twelve, or perhaps more, years ago, he first perceived weakness in the
left hand and arm, and soon after found the trembling commence. In
about three years afterwards the right arm became affected in a
similar manner: and soon afterwards the convulsive motions affected
the whole body, and began to interrupt the speech. In about three
years from that time the legs became affected. Of late years the
action of the bowels had been very much retarded; and at two or three
different periods had, with great difficulty, been made to yield to
the action of very strong cathartics. But within the last twelvemonths
this difficulty has not been so great; perhaps owing to an increased
secretion of mucus, which envelopes the passing fæces, and which
precedes and follows their discharge in considerable quantity.

About a year since, on waking in the night, he found that he had
nearly lost the use of the right side, and that the face was much
drawn to the left side. His medical attendant saw him the following
day, when he found him languid, with a small and quick pulse, and
without pain in the head or disposition to sleep. Nothing more
therefore was done than to promote the action of the bowels, and apply
a blister to the back of the neck, and in about a fortnight the limbs
had entirely recovered from their palsied state. During the time of
their having remained in this state, neither the arm nor the leg of
the paralytic side was in the least affected with the tremulous
agitation; but as their paralysed state was removed, the shaking

At present he is almost constantly troubled with the agitation, which
he describes as generally commencing in a slight degree, and gradually
increasing, until it arises to such a height as to shake the room;
when, by a sudden and somewhat violent change of posture, he is almost
always able to stop it. But very soon afterwards it will commence in
some other limb, in a small degree, and gradually increase in
violence; but he does not remember the thus checking of it, to have
been followed by any injurious effect. When the agitation had not
been thus interrupted, he stated, that it gradually extended through
all the limbs, and at last affected the whole trunk. To illustrate his
observation as to the power of suspending the motion by a sudden
change of posture, he, being then just come in from a walk, with every
limb shaking, threw himself rather violently into a chair, and said,
“Now I am as well as ever I was in my life.” The shaking completely
stopped; but returned within two minutes' time.

He now possessed but little power in giving a required direction to
the motions of any part. He was scarcely able to feed himself. He had
written hardly intelligibly for the last three years; and at present
could not write at all. His attendants observed, that of late the
trembling would sometimes begin in his sleep, and increase until it
awakened him: when he always was in a state of agitation and alarm.

On being asked if he walked under much apprehension of falling
forwards? he said he suffered much from it; and replied in the
affirmative to the question, whether he experienced any difficulty in
restraining himself from getting into a running pace? It being asked,
if whilst walking he felt much apprehension from the difficulty of
raising his feet, if he saw a rising pebble in his path? he avowed, in
a strong manner, his alarm on such occasions; and it was observed by
his wife, that she believed, that in walking across the room, he would
consider as a difficulty the having to step over a pin.

The preceding cases appear to belong to the same species: differing
from each other, perhaps, only in the length of time which the disease
had existed, and the stage at which it had arrived.

                               CHAP. II.


It has been seen in the preceding history of the disease, and in the
accompanying cases, that certain affections, the tremulous agitations,
and the almost invincible propensity to run, when wishing only to
walk, each of which has been considered by nosologists as distinct
diseases, appear to be pathognomonic symptoms of this malady. To
determine in which of these points of view these affections ought to
be regarded, an examination into their nature, and an inquiry into the
opinions of preceding writers respecting them, seem necessary to be

       *       *       *       *       *

I. _Involuntary tremulous motion, with lessened voluntary muscular
power, in parts, not in action, and even supported._

It is necessary that the peculiar nature of this tremulous motion
should be ascertained, as well for the sake of giving to it its
proper designation, as for assisting in forming probable conjectures,
as to the nature of the malady, which it helps to characterise.
Tremors were distinguished by Juncker into Active, those proceeding
from sudden affection of the minds, as terror, anger, &c. and Passive,
dependant on debilitating causes, such as advanced age, palsy, &c[2].
But a much more satisfactory and useful distinction is made by Sylvius
de la Boë into those tremors which are produced by attempts at
voluntary motion, and those which occur whilst the body is at rest[3].
Sauvages distinguishes the latter of these species (_Tremor Coactus_)
by observing, that the tremulous parts leap, and as it were vibrate,
even when supported: whilst every other tremor, he observes, ceases,
when the voluntary exertion for moving the limb stops, or the part is
supported, but returns when we will the limb to move; whence, he says,
tremor is distinguished from every other kind of spasm[4].

    [Footnote 2: Junckeri conspect. de tremore.]

    [Footnote 3: Sect. V. Ubi autem solito pauciores deferunter
    ad eadem organa spiritus animales, imperfectæ ac imbecillæ
    observantur fieri eadem functiones, in motu tremulo et
    infirmo, nec diu durante, in visu debili, ac mox defatigato,

    Sect. XIX. Inæqualiter, inordinatè, ac præter contraque
    voluntatem moventur spiritus animales per nervos ad partes
    mobiles, in motu convulsivo, ac tremore, quassuve membrorum

    Distinguendus namque his tremor quiescente licet ac
    decumbente corpore molustus a motu tremulo, de quo dictum.
    Sect. V. Quique quiescente corpore cessat, eodemque iterum
    moto repetit.

    Sect. XXV. Coactus tremor debetur animalibus spiritibus
    inordinatè ac continuo, cum aliquo impetu ad trementium
    membrorum musculos per nervos propulsis: sive fuerit is
    universalis, sive particularis, sive corpus fuerit ad huc
    robustum sive debile, Sylvii de la Boe. Prax. lib. i. cap.

    [Footnote 4: Nosolog. Methodic. Auctore Fr. Boissier de
    Sauvages, Tomi. II. Partis ii. p. 54. 1763.]

A small degree of attention will be sufficient to perceive, that
Sauvages, by this just distinction, actually separates this kind of
tremulous motion, and which is the kind peculiar to this disease, from
the Genus Tremor. In doing this he is fully warranted by the
observations of Galen on the same subject, as noticed by Van
Swieten[5]. “Binas has tremoris species[6] Galenus subtiliter
distinxit, atque etiam diversis nominibus insignivit, tremor enim
(τϱὁμ &) facultatis corpus moventis et vehentis infirmitate
oboritur. Quippe nemo, qui artus movere non instituerit tremet.
Palpitantes autem partes, etiam in quiete fuerint, etiamsi nullum
illis motum induxeris palpitant. Ideo primam (_posteriorem_) modo
descriptam tremoris speciem, quando quiescenti homini involuntariis
illis et alternis motibus agitantur membra, palpitationem (πἁλμον)
dixit, posteriorem (_primam_) vero, quæ non fit nisi homo conetur
partes quasdam movere tremorem vocavit.”

    [Footnote 5: Comment, in Herman. Boerhaav. Aphorismos. Tom.
    ii. p. 181.]

    [Footnote 6: De tremore. Cap. 3 and 4. Chart, Tom. vii. p.

Under this authority the term palpitation may be employed to mark
those morbid motions which chiefly characterise this disease,
notwithstanding that this term has been anticipated by Sauvages, as
characteristic of another species of tremor[7]. The separation of
palpitation of the limbs (_Palmos_ of Galen, _Tremor Coactus_ of de la
Boë) from tremor, is the more necessary to be insisted on, since the
distinction may assist in leading to a knowledge of the seat of the
disease. It is also necessary to bear in mind, that this affection is
distinguishable from tremor, by the agitation, in the former,
occurring whilst the affected part is supported and unemployed, and
being even checked by the adoption of voluntary motion; whilst in the
latter, the tremor is induced immediately on bringing the parts into
action. Thus an artist, afflicted with the malady here treated of,
whilst his hand and arm is palpitating strongly, will seize his
pencil, and the motions will be suspended, allowing him to use it for
a short period; but in tremor, if the hand be quite free from the
affection, should the pen or pencil be taken up, the trembling
immediately commences.

    [Footnote 7: Sect. XVI. _Tremor palpitans_, Preysinger
    classis morborum. _Palmos_ Galeni.

    In tremoribus vulgaribus, æqualibus temporum intervallis, non
    musculus, sed artus ipsemet alternatim attollitur aut
    deprimitur, aut in oppositas partes it atque redit per minima
    tamen spatiola; in palpitatione verò sine ullo ordine musculi
    unius lacertus subito subsilit, nec regulariter continuoque
    movetur, sed nunc semel aut bis, nunc minimé intra idem
    tempus subsilit; an causa irritans in sensorio communi, an in
    musculo ipse palpitante Quærenda sit, ignoramus. _Nosologiæ
    Methodicæ_, Vol. I. p. 559. 1768.

    But the adoption which Sauvages has made of this term, will
    not be regarded as an absolute prohibition from the
    employment of it here; since the _tremor palpitans_ of
    Sauvages should be considered rather as a palpitation of the
    muscles, whilst the motion which is so prominent a symptom in
    this disease, may be considered as a palpitation of the

       *       *       *       *       *

II. _A propensity to bend the trunk forwards, and to pass from a
walking to a running pace._

This affection, which observation seems to authorise the being
considered as a symptom peculiar to this disease, has been mentioned
by few nosologists: it appears to have been first noticed by Gaubius,
who says, “Cases occur in which the muscles duly excited into action
by the impulse of the will, do then, with an unbidden agility, and
with an impetus not to be repressed, accelerate their motion, and run
before the unwilling mind. It is a frequent fault of the muscles
belonging to speech, nor yet of these alone: I have seen one, who was
able to run, but not to walk[8].”

    [Footnote 8: Est et ubi musculi, recte quidem ad voluntatis
    nutum in actum concitati, injussa dein agilitate atque impetu
    non reprimendo motus suos accelerant, mentemque invitam
    præcurrunt. Vitium loquelæ musculis frequens, nec his solis
    tamen proprium: vidi enim, qui currere, non gradi,

        [Footnote A: Institution, Patholog. Medicinal. Auctore. H. D.
        Gaubio. 751.]

Sauvages, referring to this symptom, says, another disease which has
been very rarely seen by authors, appears to be referable to the same
genus (Scelotyrbe, of which he makes _Chorea sancti viti_ the first
species); which, he says, “I think cannot be more fitly named than
hastening or hurrying Scelotyrbe (_Scelotyrbem festinantem, seu

_Scelotyrbe festinans_, he says, is a peculiar species of scelotyrbe,
in which the patients, whilst wishing to walk in the ordinary mode,
are forced to run, which has been seen by Carguet and by the
illustrious Gaubius; a similar affection of the speech, when the
tongue thus outruns the mind, is termed volubility. Mons. de Sauvages
attributes this complaint to a want of flexibility in the muscular
fibres. Hence, he supposes, that the patients make shorter steps, and
strive with a more than common exertion or impetus to overcome the
resistance; walking with a quick and hastened step, as if hurried
along against their will. _Chorea Viti_, he says, attacks the youth
of both sexes, but this disease only those advanced in years; and
adds, that it has hitherto happened to him to have seen only two of
these cases; and that he has nothing to offer respecting them, either
in theory or practice[9].

    [Footnote 9: Ad idem genus morbi altera species rarissima ab
    auctoribus prætervisa referenda videtur, quam non aptius
    nominari posse putem quàm scelotyrbem festinantem, seu

    SECT. II. _Scelotyrbe festinans_: est peculiaris scelotyrbes
    species in qua ægri solito more dum gradi volunt currere
    coguntur, quod videre est apud D. Carquet, et observavit
    Leydæ illustr. Gaubius. _Patholog. instit._ 751, et in
    loquela hæc _volubilitas_ dicitur quâ lingua præcurrit
    mentem. Video actu mulierem sexagenariam hoc affectam morbo
    siccitati nervorum tribuendo; laborat enim rheumatismo sicco,
    seu ab acrimonia sanguinis, dolores nocte a calore
    recrudescunt, à thermis non sublevantur: ei præscripsi
    phlebotomiam, et præmissis jusculis ex lactucâ, endiviâ, et
    collo arietis, lene catharticum, inde vero lacticinia.

    Est affinitas cum scelotyrbe, chorea viti, deest flexibilitas
    in fibris musculorum; unde motus breves edunt, et conatu seu
    impetu solito majori, cum resistentiam illam superare
    nituntur, velut inviti festinant, ac præcipiti seu concitato
    passu gradiuntur. Chorea viti pueros, puellasve impuberes
    aggreditur; festinia vero senes, et duos tantum hactenus
    observare mihi contigit. Quam multos autem videmus morbos,
    paucissimosque observamus. De theoria et pràxi nihil habeo
    quod dicam; etenim sola experienta praxin cujusvis morbi
    determinat, et ex hac pro felici vel infausto successu
    theoria dein elicienda est. _Nosolog. Methodic._ Auctore, Fr.
    Boissier de Sauvages. Tomi. II. Part ii. p. 108.]

Having made the necessary inquiries respecting these two affections,
_Tremor coactum_ of Sylvius de la Boë and of Sauvages, and _Scelotyrbe
festinans_ of the latter nosologist, which appear to be characteristic
symptoms of this disease, it becomes necessary, in the next place, to
endeavour to distinguish this disease from others which may bear a
resemblance to it in some particular respects.

                              CHAP. III.


Treating of a disease resulting from an assemblage of symptoms, some
of which do not appear to have yet engaged the general notice of the
profession, particular care is required whilst endeavouring to mark
its diagnostic characters. It is sufficient, in general, to point out
the characteristic differences which are observable between diseases
in some respects resembling each other. But in this case more is
required: it is necessary to show that it is a disease which does not
accord with any which are marked in the systematic arrangements of
nosologists; and that the name by which it is here distinguished has
been hitherto vaguely applied to diseases very different from each
other, as well as from that to which it is now appropriated.

Palsy, either consequent to compression of the brain, or dependent on
partial exhaustion of the energy of that organ, may, when the palsied
limbs become affected with tremulous motions, be confounded with this
disease. In those cases the abolition or diminution of voluntary
muscular action takes place suddenly, the sense of feeling being
sometimes also impaired. But in this disease, the diminution of the
influence of the will on the muscles comes on with extreme slowness,
is always accompanied, and even preceded, by agitations of the
affected parts, and never by a lessened sense of feeling. The dictates
of the will are even, in the last stages of the disease, conveyed to
the muscles; and the muscles act on this impulse, but their actions
are perverted.

Anomalous cases of convulsive affections have been designated by the
term Shaking Palsy: a term which appears to be improperly applied to
these cases, independent of the want of accordance between them and
that disease which has been here denominated Shaking Palsy. Dr.
Kirkland, in his commentary on Apoplectic and Paralytic Affections,
&c. cites the following case, related by Dr. Charlton, as belonging,
he says, to the class of Shaking Palsies. “Mary Ford, of a sanguineous
and robust constitution, had an involuntary motion of her right arm,
occasioned by a fright, which first brought on convulsion fits, and
most excruciating pain in the stomach, which vanished on a sudden, and
her right arm was instantaneously flung into an involuntary and
perpetual motion, like the swing of a pendulum, raising the hand, at
every vibration higher than her head; but if by any means whatever it
was stopped; the pain in her stomach came on again, and convulsion
fits were the certain consequence, which went off when the vibration
of her hand returned.”

Another case, which the Doctor designates as 'A Shaking Palsy,'
apparently from worms, he describes thus, “A poor boy, about twelve
or thirteen years of age, was seized with a Shaking Palsy. His legs
became useless, and together with his head and hands, were in
continual agitation; after many weeks trial of various remedies, my
assistance was desired.

“His bowels being cleared, I ordered him a grain of Opium a day in the
gum pill; and in three or four days the shaking had nearly left him.”
By pursuing this plan, the medicine proving a vermifuge, he could soon
walk, and was restored to perfect health.

Whether these cases should be classed under Shaking Palsy or not, is
necessary to be here determined; since, if they are properly ranked,
the cases which have been described in the preceding pages, differ so
much from them as certainly to oppose their being classed together:
and the disease, which is the subject of these pages, cannot be
considered as the same with Shaking Palsy, as characterised by those

The term Shaking Palsy is evidently inapplicable to the first of these
cases, which appears to have belonged more properly to the genus
_Convulsio_, of Cullen, or to _Hieranosos_ of Linnæus and Vogel[10].

    [Footnote 10: Corporis agitatio continua, indolens,
    convulsiva, cum sensibilitate.—_Linn._

    Agitatio corporis vel artuum convulsiva continua, chronica,
    cum integritate sensuum.—_Vogel._

    This genus is resolved by Cullen into that of Convulsio.
    _Synops. Nosol._ 1803.

    Dr. Macbride has given a very interesting and illustrative
    case of this disease.

    “Hieranasos, or Morbus Sacer, so called, as being vulgarly
    supposed to arise from witchcraft, or some extraordinary
    celestial influence, is a distinct genus of disease, though a
    very uncommon one; the author once had an opportunity of
    seeing a case. The patient was a lad about seventeen, who at
    that time had laboured under this extraordinary disease for
    more than twelve years. His body was so distorted, and the
    legs and arms so twisted round it, by the continued
    convulsive working, that no words can give an adequate idea
    of the oddity of his figure; the agitation of the muscles was
    perpetual; but in general he did not complain of pain nor
    sickness; and had his senses perfectly, insomuch that he used
    to assist his mother, who kept a little school, in teaching
    children to read.” _A methodical Introduction to the Theory
    and Practice of Physic. By David Macbride, M.D. p. 559._]

The latter appears to be referable to that class of proteal forms of
disease, generated by a disordered state of primæ viæ, sympathetically
affecting the nervous influence in a distant part of the body.

Unless attention is paid to one circumstance, this disease will be
confounded with those species of passive tremblings to which the term
Shaking Palsies has frequently been applied. These are, _tremor
temulentus_, the trembling consequent to indulgence in the drinking of
spirituous liquors; that which proceeds from the immoderate employment
of tea and coffee; that which appears to be dependent on advanced age;
and all those tremblings which proceed from the various circumstances
which induce a diminution of power in the nervous system. But by
attending to that circumstance alone, which has been already noted as
characteristic of mere tremor, the distinction will readily be made.
If the trembling limb be supported, and none of its muscles be called
into action, the trembling will cease. In the real Shaking Palsy the
reverse of this takes place, the agitation continues in full force
whilst the limb is at rest and unemployed; and even is sometimes
diminished by calling the muscles into employment.

                               CHAP. IV.


Before making the attempt to point out the nature and cause of this
disease, it is necessary to plead, that it is made under very
unfavourable circumstances. Unaided by previous inquiries immediately
directed to this disease, and not having had the advantage, in a
single case, of that light which anatomical examination yields,
opinions and not facts can only be offered. Conjecture founded on
analogy, and an attentive consideration of the peculiar symptoms of
the disease, have been the only guides that could be obtained for this
research, the result of which is, as it ought to be, offered with

                       SUPPOSED PROXIMATE CAUSE.

     A diseased state of the _medulla spinalis_, in that part
     which is contained in the canal, formed by the superior
     cervical vertebræ, and extending, as the disease proceeds,
     to the _medulla oblongata_.

By the nature of the symptoms we are taught, that the disease depends
on some irregularity in the direction of the nervous influence; by the
wide range of parts which are affected, that the injury is rather in
the source of this influence than merely in the nerves of the parts;
by the situation of the parts whose actions are impaired, and the
order in which they become affected, that the proximate cause of the
disease is in the superior part of the medulla spinalis; and by the
absence of any injury to the senses and to the intellect, that the
morbid state does not extend to the encephalon.

Uncertainty existing as to the nature of the proximate cause of this
disease, its remote causes must necessarily be referred to with
indecision. Assuming however the state just mentioned as the proximate
cause, it may be concluded that this may be the result of injuries of
the medulla itself, or of the theca helping to form the canal in which
it is inclosed.

The great degree of mobility in that portion of the spine which is
formed by the superior cervical vertebræ, must render it, and the
contained parts, liable to injury from sudden distortions. Hence
therefore may proceed inflammation of quicker or of slower progress,
disease of the vertebræ, derangement of structure in the medulla, or
in its membranes, thickening or even ulceration of the theca, effusion
of fluids, &c.

But in no case which has been noticed, has the patient recollected
receiving any injury of this kind, or any fixed pain in early life in
these parts, which might have led to the opinion that the foundation
for this malady had been thus laid. On the subject indeed of remote
causes, no satisfactory accounts has yet been obtained from any of the
sufferers. Whilst one has attributed this affliction to indulgence in
spirituous liquors, and another to long lying on the damp ground; the
others have been unable to suggest any circumstance whatever, which,
in their opinion, could be considered as having given origin, or
disposed, to the calamity under which they suffered.

Cases illustrative of the nature and cause of this malady are very
rare. In the following case symptoms very similar are observable, so
far as affecting the lower extremities. That the medulla spinalis was
here affected, and in its lower part, is not to be doubted: but this,
unfortunately, was never ascertained by examination. It must be
however remarked, that this case differed from those which have been
given of this disease, in the suddenness with which the symptoms

_A. B._ aged twenty-six years, during a course of mercury for a
venereal affection, was exposed to severely inclement weather, for
several hours, and the next morning, complained of extreme pain in the
back, and of total inability to employ voluntarily the muscles of the
lower extremities, which were continually agitated with severe
convulsive motions. The physician who attended him employed those
means which seemed best calculated to relieve him; but with no
beneficial effect. The lower extremities were perpetually agitated
with strong palpitatory motions, and, frequently, three or four times
in a minute, suddenly raised with great vehemence two or three feet
from the ground, either in a forward or oblique direction, striking
one limb against the other, or against the chairs, tables, or any
substance which stood in the way. To check these inordinate motions,
no means were in the least effectual, except striking the thighs
forcibly during the more violent convulsions. No advantage was derived
from all the means which were employed during upwards of twelvemonths.
Full ten years after this period, the unhappy subject of this malady
was casually met in the street, shifting himself along, seated in a
chair; the convulsive motions having ceased, and the limbs having
become totally inert, and insensible to any impulse of the will.

It must be acknowledged, that in the well-known cases, described by
Mr. Potts, of that kind of Palsy of the lower limbs which is
frequently found to accompany a curvature of the spine, and in which a
carious state of the vertebræ is found to exist, no instructive
analogy is discoverable; slight convulsive motions may indeed happen
in the disease proceeding from curvature of the spine; but palpitating
motions of the limbs, such as belong to the disease here described, do
not appear to have been hitherto noticed.

Whilst striving to determine the nature and origin of this disease, it
becomes necessary to give the following particulars of an interesting
case of Palsy occasioned by a fall, attended with uncommon symptoms,
related by Dr. Maty, in the third volume of the Medical Observations
and Inquiries. The subject of this case, the Count de Lordat, had the
misfortune to be overturned from a pretty high and steep bank. His
head pitched against the top of the coach, and was bent from left to
right; his left shoulder, arm, and especially his hand, were
considerably bruised. At first he felt a good deal of pain along the
left side of his neck, but neither then, nor at any other time, had he
any faintings, vomitings, or giddiness.—On the sixth day he was let
blood, on account of the pain in his shoulder and the contusion of his
hand, which were then the only symptoms he complained of, and of
which he soon found himself relieved.—Towards the beginning of the
following winter, he began to find _a small impediment in uttering
some words, and his left arm appeared weaker_. In the following
spring, having suffered considerably from the severities of the winter
campaign, he found _the difficulty in speaking, and in moving his left
arm, considerably increased_.—On employing the thermal waters of
Bourbonne, his speech become freer, but, on his return to Paris, the
Palsy was increased, and the arm somewhat wasted.—In the beginning of
the next spring he went to Balaruc; when he became affected with
_involuntary convulsive motions all over the body_. The left arm
withered more and more, _a spitting began_, and now it was _with
difficulty that he uttered a few words_. Frictions and sinapisms were
successively tried, and an issue, made by a caustic, was kept open for
some time without any effect; but no mention is made of what part the
issue was established in.

Soon after this, and three years and a half after the fall, Doctor
Maty first saw the patient, and gives the following description of
his situation. “A more melancholy object I never beheld. The patient,
naturally a handsome, middle-sized, sanguine man, of a cheerful
disposition, and an active mind, appeared much emaciated, stooping,
and dejected. _He still walked alone with a cane, from one room to the
other, but with great difficulty, and in a tottering manner_; his left
hand and arm were much reduced, and would hardly perform any motion;
_the right was somewhat benumbed, and he could scarcely lift it up to
his head; his saliva was continually trickling out of his mouth, and
he had neither the power of retaining it, nor of spitting it out
freely_. What words he still could utter were monosyllables, and these
came out, after much struggle, in a violent expiration, and with such
a low voice and indistinct articulation, as hardly to be understood
but by those who were constantly with him. He fetched his breath
rather hard; his pulse was low, but neither accelerated nor
intermitting. He took very little nourishment, could chew and swallow
no solids, and even found great pain in getting down liquids. Milk was
almost his only food; his body was rather loose, his urine natural,
his sleep good, his senses, and the powers of his mind, unimpaired; he
was attentive to, and sensible of every thing which was said in
conversation, and shewed himself very desirous of joining in it; but
was continually checked by the impediment in his speech, and the
difficulty which his hearers were put to. Happily for him he was able
to read, and as capable as ever of writing, as he shewed me, by
putting into my hands an account of his present situation, drawn up by
himself: and I am informed that he spent his time to the very last, in
writing upon some of the most abstruse subjects.”

This gentleman died about four years after the accident, when the body
was examined by Dr. Bellett and Mons. Sorbier, who made the following

“We first examined the muscles of the tongue, which were found
extenuated and of a loose texture. We observed no signs of compression
in the lingual and brachial nerves, as high as their exit from the
basis of the cranium and the vertebræ of the neck; but they appeared
to us more compact than they commonly are, being nearly tendinous. The
dura mater was in a sound state, but the pia mater was full of blood
and lymph; on it several hydatids, and towards the falx some marks of
suppuration were observed. The ventricles were filled with water, and
the plexus choroides was considerably enlarged, and stuffed with
grumous blood. The cortical surface of the brain appeared much browner
than usual, but neither the medullary part nor cerebellum were
impaired. We chiefly took notice of the Medulla Oblongata, this was
greatly enlarged, surpassing the usual size by more than one third. It
was likewise more compact. The membranes, which, in their
continuation, inclose the spinal marrow, were so tough that we found
great difficulty in cutting through them, and we observed this to be
the cause of the tendinous texture of the cervical nerves. The marrow
itself had acquired such solidity as to elude the pressure of our
fingers, it resisted as a callous body, and could not be bruised. This
hardness was observed all along the vertebræ of the neck, but lessened
by degrees, and was not near so considerable in the vertebræ of the
thorax. Though the patient was but nine and thirty years old, the
cartilages of the sternum were ossified, and required as much labour
to cut them asunder as the ribs; like these they were spungy, but
somewhat whiter. The lungs and heart were sound. At the bottom of the
stomach appeared an inflammation, which increased as it extended to
the intestines. The ileum looked of that dark and livid hue, which is
observed in membranous parts tending to mortification. The colon was
not above an inch in diameter, the rectum was smaller still, but both
appeared sound.—From these appearances, we were at no loss to fix the
cause of this gradual palsy in the alteration of the medulla spinalis
and oblongata.”

Dr. Bellett offers the following explanation of these changes. “I
conceive, that, by this accident, the head being violently bent to the
right, the nervous membranes on the left were excessively stretched
and irritated; that this cause extended by degrees to the spinal
marrow, which being thereby compressed, brought on the paralytic
symptoms, not only of the left arm, but at last in some measure also
of the right. This induration seems to have been occasioned by the
constant afflux of the nutritive juices, which were stopt at that
place, and deprived of their most liquid parts; the grosser ones being
unable to spread in the boney cavity, by which they were confined,
could only acquire a greater solidity, and change a soft body into a
hard and nearly osseous mass. This likewise accounts for the increase
of the medulla oblongata, which being loaded with more juices than it
could send off, swelled in the same manner as the branches of trees,
which will grow of a monstrous size, when the sap that runs into them
is stopt in its progress. The medulla oblongata not growing so hard as
the spinalis, was doubtless owing to its not being confined in an
osseous theca, but surrounded with soft parts, which allowed it room
to spread. The obstruction from the bulk of this substance must have
affected the brain, and probably induced the thickening of the pia
mater, the hydatids, and the beginning of suppuration, whereas the
dura mater, being of a harder texture, was not injured[11].”

    [Footnote 11: Medical Observations and Inquiries, Vol. III.
    p. 257.]

In some of the symptoms which appeared in this case, an agreement is
observable between it and those cases which are mentioned in the
beginning of these pages. The weakened state of both arms; the power
first lessening in one arm, and then in a similar manner in the other
arm; the affection of the speech; the difficulty in chewing and in
swallowing; as well as of retaining, or freely discharging, the
spittle; the convulsive motions of the body; and the unimpaired state
of the intellects; constitute such a degree of accordance as, although
it may not mark an identity of disease, serves at least to show that
nearly the same parts were the seat of the disease in both instances.
Thus we attain something like confirmation of the supposed proximate
cause, and of one of the assumed occasional causes.

Whilst conjecturing as to the cause of this disease, the following
collected observations on the effects of injury to the medulla
spinalis, by Sir Everard Home, become particularly deserving of
attention. It thence appears, that none of the characteristic symptoms
of this malady are produced by compression, laceration, or complete
division of the medulla spinalis.

“Pressure upon the medulla spinalis of the neck, by coagulated blood,
produced paralytic affections of the arms and legs; all the functions
of the internal organs were carried on for thirty-five days, but the
urine and stools passed involuntarily[12].

    [Footnote 12: A coagulum of blood, the thickness of a
    crown-piece, was found lying upon the external surface of the
    dura-matral covering of the medulla spinalis, extending from
    the fourth vertebra colli to the second vertebra dorsi. The
    medulla spinalis itself was uninjured.]

“Blood extravasated in the central part of the medulla, in the neck,
was attended with paralytic affection of the legs, but not of the

    [Footnote 13: The sixth and seventh vertebra colli were
    dislocated, the medulla spinalis, externally, was uninjured;
    but in the centre of its substance, just at that part, there
    was a coagulum of blood nearly two inches in length.]

“In a case where the substance of the medulla was lacerated in the
neck, there was a paralysis in all the parts below the laceration, the
lining of the œsophagus was so sensible, that solids could not be
swallowed, on account of the pain they occasioned[14].

    [Footnote 14: The seventh vertebra colli was fractured, and
    the medulla spinalis passing through it, was lacerated and

“When the medulla of the back was completely divided, there was
momentary loss of sight, loss of memory for fifteen minutes, and
permanent insensibility in all the lower parts of the body. The skin
above the division of the spinal marrow perspired, that below did not.
The wounded spinal marrow appeared to be extremely sensible[15].”
_Philosophical Transactions_, 1816, p. 485.

    [Footnote 15: The spinal marrow, within the canal of the
    sixth vertebra dorsi, was completely destroyed by a musket
    ball. The person lived four days.]

In two of the cases already noticed, symptoms of rheumatism had
previously existed; and in Case IV. the right arm, in which the
palpitation began, was said to have been very violently affected with
rheumatic pain to the fingers ends. The consideration of this case, in
which the palpitation had been preceded, at a considerable distance of
time, by this painful affection of the arm, led to the supposition
that this latter circumstance might be the cause of the palpitations,
and the other subsequent symptoms of this disease. This supposition
naturally occasioned the attention to be eagerly fixed on the
following case; and of course influenced the mode of treatment which
was adopted.

_A. B._ subject to rheumatic affection of the deltoid muscle, had felt
the usual inconveniences from it for two or three days; but at night
found the pain had extended down the arm, along the inside of the
fore-arm, and on the sides of the fingers, in which a continual
tingling was felt. The pain, without being extremely intense, was such
as effectually to prevent sleep: and seemed to follow the course of
the brachial nerve. Whilst ascertaining the propriety of this
conclusion, the pain was found to ramify, as it were, on the fore and
back part of the chest; and was slightly augmented by drawing a deep

These circumstances suggested the probability of slight inflammation,
or increased determination to the origin of the nerves of these parts,
and to the neighbouring medulla. On this ground, blood was taken from
the back part of the neck, by cupping; hot fomentations were applied
for about the space of an hour, when the upper part of the back of the
neck was covered with a blister, perspiration was freely induced by
two or three small doses of antimonials, and the following morning the
bowels were evacuated by an appropriate dose of calomel. On the
following day the pains were much diminished, and in the course of
four or five days were quite removed. The arm and hand felt now more
than ordinarily heavy, and were evidently much weakened: aching, and
feeling extremely wearied after the least exertion. The strength of
the arm was not completely recovered at the end of more than
twelvemonths; and, after more than twice that time, exertion would
excite the feeling of painful weariness, but no palpitation or other
unpleasant symptom has occurred during the five or six years which
have since passed.

The commencement, progress, and termination of this attack; with the
success attending the mode of treatment, and the symptoms which
followed, seem to lead to the conjecture, that the proximate cause of
the disease, in this case, existed in the medulla spinalis, and that
it might, if neglected, have gradually resolved itself into that
disease which is the object of our present inquiry.

Some few months after the occurrence of the preceding case, the writer
of these lines was called to a female about forty years of age,
complaining of great pain in both the arms, extending from the
shoulder to the finger ends. She stated, that she was attacked in the
same manner as is described in the preceding case, about nine months
before; that the complaint was considered as rheumatism, and was not
benefited by any of the medicines which had been employed; but that
after three or four weeks it gradually amended, leaving both the arms
and hands in a very weakened and trembling state. From this state they
were now somewhat recovered; but she was extremely anxious, fearing
that if the present attack should not be soon checked, she might
entirely lose the use of her hands and arms.

Instructed by the preceding case, similar means were here recommended.
Leeches, stimulating fomentations, and a blister, which was made for
sometime to yield a purulent discharge, were applied over the cervical
vertebræ; and in the course of a very few days the pain was entirely
removed. It is regretted that no farther information, as to the
progress of this case, could be obtained.

On meeting with these two cases, it was thought that it might not be
improbable that attacks of this kind, considered at the time merely as
rheumatic affections, might lay the foundation of this lamentable
disease, which might manifest itself at some distant period, when the
circumstance in which it had originated, had, perhaps, almost escaped
the memory. Indeed when it is considered that neither in the ordinary
cases of Palsy of the lower extremities, proceeding from diseased
spine, nor in cases of injured medulla from fractured vertebræ, any of
the peculiar symptoms of this disease are observable, we necessarily
doubt as to the probability of its being the direct effect of any
sudden injury. But taking all circumstances into due consideration,
particularly the very gradual manner in which the disease commences,
and proceeds in its attacks; as well as the inability to ascribe its
origin to any more obvious cause, we are led to seek for it in some
slow morbid change in the structure of the medulla, or its investing
membranes, or theca, occasioned by simple inflammation, or rheumatic
or scrophulous affection.

It must be too obvious that the evidence adduced as to the nature of
the proximate and occasional causes of this disease, is by no means
conclusive. A reference to the test therefore which will be yielded by
an examination of some of the more prominent symptoms, especially as
to their agreement with the supposed proximate cause, is more
particularly demanded. Satisfied as to the importance of this part of
the present undertaking, no apology is offered for the extent to which
the examination is carried on.

If the palpitation and the attendant weakness of the limbs, &c. be
considered as to the order in which the several parts are attacked, it
is believed, that some confirmation will be obtained of the opinion
which has been just offered, respecting the cause, or at least the
seat, of that change which may be considered as the proximate cause of
this disease.

One of the arms, in all the cases which have been here mentioned, has
been the part in which these symptoms have been first noticed; the
legs, head, and trunk have then become gradually affected, and lastly,
the muscles of the mouth and fauces have yielded to the morbid

The arms, the parts first manifesting disordered action, of course
direct us, whilst searching for the cause of these changes, to the
brachial nerves. But finding the mischief extending to other parts,
not supplied with these, but with other nerves derived from nearly the
same part of the medulla spinalis, we are of course led to consider
that portion of the medulla spinalis itself, from which these nerves
are derived, as the part in which those changes have taken place,
which constitute the proximate cause of this disease.

From the subsequent affection of the lower extremities, and from the
failure of power in the muscles of the trunk, such a change in the
substance of the medulla spinalis may be inferred, as shall have
considerably interrupted, and interfered with, the extension of the
nervous influence to those parts, whose nerves are derived from any
portion of the medulla below the part which has undergone the diseased

The difficulty in supporting the trunk erect, as well as the
propensity to the adopting of a hurried pace, is also referable to
such a diminution of the nervous power in the extensor muscles of the
head and trunk, as prevents them from performing the offices of
maintaining the head and body in an erect position.

From the impediment to speech, the difficulty in mastication and
swallowing, the inability to retain, or freely to eject, the Saliva,
may with propriety be inferred an extension of the morbid change
upwards through the medulla spinalis to the medulla oblongata,
necessarily impairing the powers of the several nerves derived from
that portion into which the morbid change may have reached. In the
late occurrence of this set of symptoms, and the extension upwards of
the diseased state, a very close agreement is observable between this
disease and that which has been already shown, proved fatal to the
Count de Lordat. But in this case, the disease doubtlessly became
differently modified, and its symptoms considerably accelerated, in
consequence of the magnitude of the injury by which the disease was

                               CHAP. V.


The inquiries made in the preceding pages yield, it is to be much
regretted, but little more than evidence of inference: nothing direct
and satisfactory has been obtained. All that has been ventured to
assume here, has been that the disease depends on a disordered state
of that part of the medulla which is contained in the cervical
vertebræ. But of what nature that morbid change is; and whether
originating in the medulla itself, in its membranes, or in the
containing theca, is, at present, the subject of doubt and conjecture.
But although, at present, uninformed as to the precise nature of the
disease, still it ought not to be considered as one against which
there exists no countervailing remedy.

On the contrary, there appears to be sufficient reason for hoping that
some remedial process may ere long be discovered, by which, at least,
the progress of the disease may be stopped. It seldom happens that
the agitation extends beyond the arms within the first two years;
which period, therefore, if we were disposed to divide the disease
into stages, might be said to comprise the first stage. In this
period, it is very probable, that remedial means might be employed
with success: and even, if unfortunately deferred to a later period,
they might then arrest the farther progress of the disease, although
the removing of the effects already produced, might be hardly to be

From a review of the changes which had taken place in the case of
Count de Lordat, it seems as if we were able to trace the order and
mode in which the morbid changes may proceed in this disease. From any
occasional cause, the thecal ligament, the membranes, or the medulla
itself, may pass into the state of simple excitement or irritation,
which may be gradually succeeded by such a local afflux and
determination of blood into the minute vessels, as may terminate in
actual but slow inflammation. The result of this would be a
thickening of the theca, or membranes, and perhaps an increase in the
volume of the medulla itself, which would gradually occasion such a
degree of pressure against the sides of the unyielding canal, as must
eventually intercept the influence of the brain upon the inferior
portion of the medullary column, and upon the parts on which the
nerves of this portion are disposed.

From this review, and assuming that the morbid changes in this disease
may not be widely dissimilar from those which occurred in the case of
Count de Lordat, the chance of relief from the proposed mode of
treatment may appear to be sufficient to warrant its trial.

In such a case then, at whatever period of the disease it might be
proposed to attempt the cure, blood should be first taken from the
upper part of the neck, unless contra-i(n)dicated by any particul(ar)
circumstance. After which vesicatories should be applied to the (sa)me
part, and a purulent discharge obtained by appropriate use of the
Sabine Liniment; having recourse to the application of a fresh
blister, when from the diminution of the discharging surface, pus is
not secreted in a sufficient quantity. Should the blisters be found
too inconvenient, or a sufficient quantity of discharge not be
obtained thereby, an issue of at least an inch and a half in length
might be established on each side of the vertebral columna, in its
superior part. These, it is presumed, would be best formed with
caustic, and kept open with any proper substance[16].

    [Footnote 16: Cork, which has been hitherto neglected,
    appears to be very appropriate to this purpose. It possesses
    lightness, softness, elasticity and sufficient firmness; and
    is also capable of being readily fashioned to any convenient
    form. The form which it seems would be best adapted to the
    part, is that of an almond, or of the variety of bean called
    scarlet bean; but at least an inch and a half in length.]

Could it have been imagined that such considerable benefit: indeed,
that such astonishing cures, could have been effected by issues in
cases of Palsy of the lower extremities from diseased spine? although
satisfied with ascribing those cases to scrofulous action, we are in
fact as little informed respecting the nature of the affection,
inducing the carious state of the vertebræ, as we are respecting the
peculiar change of structure which takes place in this disease.
Equally uninformed are we also as to the peculiar kind of morbid
action, which takes place in the ligaments of the joints; as well as
that which takes place in different instances of deep seated pains and
affections of the parts contained in the head, thorax, and abdomen,
and in all which cases the inducing of a purulent discharge in their
neighbourhood is so frequently productive of a cure. Experiment has
not indeed been yet employed to prove, but analogy certainly warrants
the hope, that similar advantages might be derived from the use of the
means enumerated, in the present disease. It is obvious, that the
chance of obtaining relief will depend in a great measure on the
period at which the means are employed. As in every other disease, so
here, the earlier the remedies are resorted to, the greater will be
the probability of success. But in this disease there is one
circumstance which demands particular attention; the long period to
which it may be extended. One of its peculiar symptoms, Scelotyrbe
festinans, may not occur until the disease has existed ten or twelve
years, or more; hence, when looking for the period, within which our
hopes of remedial aid is to be limited; we may, guided by the slow
progress of the malady, extend it to a great length, when compared
with that within which we should be obliged to confine ourselves in
most other diseases.

But it is much to be apprehended, as in many other cases, that the
resolution of the patients will seldom be sufficient to enable them to
persevere through the length of time which the proposed process will
necessarily require. As slow as is the progress of the disease, so
slow in all probability must be the period of the return to health. In
most cases, especially in those in which the disease has been allowed
to exist long unopposed, it may be found that all that art is capable
of accomplishing, is that of checking its further progress. Nor will
this be regarded as a trifle, when, by reference to the history of the
disease, is seen the train of harassing evils which would be thus

But it seems as if there existed reason for hoping for more. For
supposing change of structure to have taken place, it is extremely
probable that this change may be merely increase in mass or volume by
interstitial addition, the consequence of increased action in the
minute vessels of the part. In that case, should the instituting of a
purulent discharge, in a neighbouring part, act in the manner which we
would presume it may—should it by keeping up a constant discharge,
not merely alter the determination, but diminish the inordinate action
of the vessels in the diseased part; and at the same time excite the
absorbents to such increased action as may remove the added matter;
there will exist strong ground for hope, that a happy, though slow
restoration to health, may be obtained.

Until we are better informed respecting the nature of this disease,
the employment of internal medicines is scarcely warrantable; unless
analogy should point out some remedy the trial of which rational hope
might authorize. Particular circumstances indeed must arise in
different cases, in which the aid of medicine may be demanded: and the
intelligent will never fail to avail themselves of any opportunity of
making trial of the influence of mercury, which has in so many
instances, manifested its power in correcting derangement of

The weakened powers of the muscles in the affected parts is so
prominent a symptom, as to be very liable to mislead the inattentive,
who may regard the disease as a mere consequence of constitutional
debility. If this notion be pursued, and tonic medicines, and highly
nutritious diet be directed, no benefit is likely to be thus obtained;
since the disease depends not on general weakness, but merely on the
interruption of the flow of the nervous influence to the affected

It is indeed much to be regretted that this malady is generally
regarded by the sufferers in this point of view, so discouraging to
the employment of remedial means. Seldom occurring before the age of
fifty, and frequently yielding but little inconvenience for several
months, it is generally considered as the irremediable diminution of
the nervous influence, naturally resulting from declining life; and
remedies therefore are seldom sought for.

Although unable to trace the connection by which a disordered state of
the stomach and bowels may induce a morbid action in a part of the
medulla spinalis, yet taught by the instruction of Mr. Abernethy,
little hesitation need be employed before we determine on the
probability of such occurrence. The power, possessed by sympathy, of
inducing such disordered action in a distant part, and the probability
of such disordered action producing derangement of structure, can
hardly be denied. The following Case seems to prove, at least, that
the mysterious sympathetic influence which so closely simulates the
forms of other diseases, may induce such symptoms as would seem to
menace the formation of a disease not unlike to that which we have
been here treating of.

_A. B._ A man, 54 years of age, of temperate habits and regular state
of bowels, became gradually affected with slight numbness and
prickling, with a feeling of weakness in both arms, accompanied by a
sense of fulness about the shoulders, as if produced by the pressure
of a strong ligature; and at times a slight trembling of the hands.
During the night, the fullness, numbness, and prickling were much
increased. The appetite had been diminished for several weeks; and the
abdomen, on being examined, felt as though containing considerable

Before adopting any other measures, and as there appeared to be no
marks of vascular fulness, it was determined to empty the bowels. This
was done effectually by moderate doses of calomel, with the occasional
help of Epsom salts; and in about ten days, by these means alone, the
complaints were entirely removed.

Before concluding these pages, it may be proper to observe once more,
that an important object proposed to be obtained by them is, the
leading of the attention of those who humanely employ anatomical
examination in detecting the causes and nature of diseases,
particularly to this malady. By their benevolent labours its real
nature may be ascertained, and appropriate modes of relief, or even of
cure, pointed out.

To such researches the healing art is already much indebted for the
enlargement of its powers of lessening the evils of suffering
humanity. Little is the public aware of the obligations it owes to
those who, led by professional ardour, and the dictates of duty, have
devoted themselves to these pursuits, under circumstances most
unpleasant and forbidding. Every person of consideration and feeling,
may judge of the advantages yielded by the philanthropic exertions of
a HOWARD; but how few can estimate the benefits bestowed on mankind,
by the labours of a MORGAGNI, HUNTER, or BAILLIE.


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