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How They Learned to Treat Mastoiditis: Not By Books

Some 100 years after M. J. L. Petit (1674-1750) recorded the first successful operations for mastoiditis in his Oeuvres posthumes de chirurgie (1737), another surgical treatment for mastoid infection appeared - the "Wilde incision." Sir William Wilde (1815-1876) presents the procedure in his writing, Practical observations on aural surgery and the nature and treatment of diseases of the ear (1853). Clearly, the reason was an "abscess" behind the ear. The Petit method was more than a trocar probing; he searched for pus in the mastoid cells using a gauge and chisel. This impetus did not catch on until 150 years later. Wilde's procedure was a simple treatment of an incision in the swelling behind the ear that became the chosen care for three decades. 

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