Fighting Schizophrenia: Beginnings of Somatic Treatments in Psychiatry in Riga Sarkankains Hospital in the 1930s

Libiete, Ieva
June 2011
Baltic Journal of European Studies;Jun2011, Vol. 1 Issue 1, p257
In the 1930s the first somatic treatments of schizophrenia were developed- insulin coma treatment in 1933 (by Manfred Sakel, Vienna) and chemical-convulsive therapy in 1934 (by Ladislas Meduna, Budapest). In 1936, Hermanis Saltups from the Riga Sarkankalns Hospital, Psychiatric Clinic of University of Latvia, went to the Neuropsychiatric University Clinic of Vienna to study the insulin coma treatment. At the end of 1936, the insulin coma treatment was started in the Riga Sarkankalns Hospital. The chemical-convulsive therapy was started in 1937. From the beginnings of the insulin coma treatment the main complications, even deaths, were associated with protracted or prolonged coma, when, despite glucose administration, patients could not be revived. In the Sarkankalns hospital, after accidental 47 hour long insulin coma, the mental health of a patient dramatically improved and the psychotic symptoms disappeared. These findings encouraged psychiatrist Verners Kraulis to use protracted coma for therapeutic purposes. He developed a method that allowed prolonging the coma for 12 hours and more. The modified treatment was used in treating schizophrenics who failed the classical shock treatment and were considered otherwise untreatable.


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