2. A needle puncture of a vein for the drawing of blood; also called, venepuncture, venesection, venipuncture, venisection, and venotomy.
3. The act or practice of opening a vein by incision or puncture to remove blood as a therapeutic treatment.
The Ancient Art of Bloodletting
The practice of bloodletting seemed logical when the foundation of all medical treatment was based on the four body humors: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. Health was thought to be restored by purging, starving, vomiting or bloodletting.
The art of bloodletting was practiced well before Hippocrates in the fifth century B.C. By the middle ages, both surgeons and barbers were specializing in this bloody practice. Barbers advertised with a red (for blood) and white (for tourniquet) striped pole. The pole itself represented the stick squeezed by the patient to dilate the veins and the bowls into which the blood flowed.
Bloodletting arrived in the U. S. on the Mayflower. The practice reached great heights in the 18th and early 19th centuries. The first U.S. president, George Washington, died from a throat infection in 1799 after being drained of nine pints of blood within 24 hours. The draining of 16-30 ounces (one to four pints) of blood was typical.
Blood was often caught in a shallow bowl. When the patient became faint, the "treatment" was stopped. Bleeding was often encouraged over large areas of the body by multiple incisions. By the end of the 19th century (1875-1900), phlebotomy was declared quackery because medical research proved such practices to be in incorrect.