Dr. S. Weir Mitchell

“Under such torments the temper changes, the most amiable become irritable, the bravest soldier becomes a coward, and the strongest man is scarcely less nervous than the most hysterical girl.”

-from Gunshot Wounds and other injuries of nerves (1864), by Mitchell, S. Weir, Moorehouse, George R., Keen, William W.

dr silas weir mitchell

I am constantly shocked by people (read: medical professionals who claim to be familiar with the condition) who think CRPS has been described medically only recently. Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell, one of America’s first neurologists, described the modern CRPS Type II as “causalgia,” after he noticed an increase in cases during the Civil War. He also described CRPS in the critical text Gunshot Wounds and other injuries of nerves, published in 1864 ad co-authored with George Moorehouse, and William Keen. This appears to be the first thorough description in medical texts.

The next time someone wonders if CRPS is “new,” you can let them know it absolutely isn’t. Just some food for thought.

Side note: Dr. Mitchell was a scientific powerhouse, but even he had his darker ideas like the “rest cure” he prescribed. I definitely don’t agree with all his ideas, but he did a fine job of describing causalgia, as well as other things.

Additional links:

Biographical Memoir by Percival Bailey

Dillon Carroll’s National Museum of Civil War Medicine article


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