13 August 2011

Apoplexy as a Cause of Death


I've recently discovered an interesting cause of death listed on a death certificate: apoplexy. That was it. No elaboration or explanation; just that one word.

Not having heard of that one before (not as an official cause of death, anyway), I decided to investigate. Apparently in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, apoplexy was commonly noted as a cause of death in cases where the patient suddenly suffered from some type of attack of the brain. This could have been anything from prolonged unconsciousness to partial or complete paralysis.

Most attacks of apoplexy were precipitated by some symptom such as a bad headache, vomiting, confusion, or numbness/tingling of the extremities.

I found it interesting that, in some cases, incidents of apoplexy were often mistaken for inebriation and some patients were simply left alone to "sleep it off". Only qualified medical professionals were likely able to recognize the seriousness of a person's condition because of the subtle differences between alcohol intoxication and apoplexy.

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