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Theodore Dalrymple's mention (BMJ/2009;339;b3143)of his father's
vagotomy (for which there was then some theoretical justification)reminded
me of a treatment for sciatica given in the edition (1941 I think) of
Romanis and Mitchener's "Textbook of Surgery" which I bought as a medical
student in 1944.
It said "If all else fails, paint a line of fuming nitric acid on the
skin over the course of the sciatic nerve".
(What would NICE say to this?)
In later years, having discarded the book while on my way to becoming
a consultant microbiologist, I sometimes thought to myself "Surely it did
not really say that". But it did, and I saw it again in a copy belonging
to a deceased colleague whose books his widow asked me to dispose of.