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How to Use High Frequency Currents in the Treatment of Disease

By Dr. Frederick Finch Strong

Lecturer in Electrotherapeutics, Tufts Medical School, Boston

Now that the exigencies of war have temporarily suspended the activities of amateur Radio telegraphers, many of those possessing transmitting outfits are using them for the experimental study of the phenomena of High Frequency currents.

In the Electrical Experimenter for May, the writer described the construction of a Tesla D'Arsonval high-frequency outfit made from standard "Wireless" apparatus, consisting of a 1/4 or 1/2 K.W. transformer with glass plate condenser and oscillation transformer, the latter used as a series inductance to obtain various effects from the Tesla coil, or as a "D'Arsonval Solenoid" for obtaining the "Diathermic" and "Auto-condensation" currents so valuable in the treatment of certain diseases.

Many excellent results can be obtained from high-frequency treatment administered by those who have little or no knowledge of medicine. A physician's advice should always be obtained before undertaking the treatment of any serious case, but the amateur may safely employ moderate doses of Tesla currents, and even mild diathermy and auto-condensation, provided he makes himself reasonably familiar with the elementary principles of electro-therapeutics*

In a few States there is a law prohibiting the therapeutic use of electricity by any but licensed physicians, but even this would not apply to treatments given gratuitously by amateurs to relatives or friends. A number of the writer's former pupils have become successful practising electro-therapeutists, altho they are not physicians.

Most of them wisely refrain from the use of the sinusoidal. Galvanic and static currents; these belonging more to the field of the electro-medical specialist.

A simpler and cheaper apparatus than the one described in the May issue of this journal will give all the varieties of therapeutic high-frequency currents that may safely be used by the amateur. It is made up as follows:

Transformer, Any standard J4 K.W. radio transformer (E. I. Co., Clapp-Eastham, Thordarson, etc.)

Condenser, Standard wireless glass plate condenser, one section of .005 microfarad; two sections of .01 m.f., each in series will be safer.

Inductance Coil, ("D'Arsonval"' solenoid), thirty turns No. 12 bare copper wire, wound around a wooden cage 8" in diameter., 1/4" between turns.

Spark gap, Adjustable series gap, made as shown in the diagram, Fig. 1. The sparking surfaces are of copper, turned in annular or concentric grooves as described in a previous article - Copper washers of 1/2" and 1" diameter, are slipt alternately on an 8-32 machine screw, and form the heat radiating wings. The further construction and operation of the gap is indicated in the drawing.

Tesla Coil, Identical in winding to that previously described, viz., -secondary- on a 2" diameter paper mailing tube wind 480 turns of No. 34 S. C. C. magnet wire (40 turns to the inch; 12" winding, 1" margin on each end). Slip the secondary into a 4" mailing tube, center accurately by means of three corks in each end, seal one end by standing coil on end in a shallow pan filled with melted resin, and when cold fill the annular space between tubes with a mixture of beeswax (yellow) one part, to resin, 5 parts. Wind primary, consisting of six turns "Magneto" cable (which can be bought for five cents a foot) around center of outer tube; turns spaced 1/2" apart. Secondary leads, of magneto cable, should be connected to the outer posts of the writer's "triple terminals."

One arrangement of the complete apparatus is shown in Fig. 2. The triple terminals greatly facilitate the therapeutic use of the Tesla Currents, and also afford an opportunity for studying different forms of the high-frequency discharge.

The actual terminals, A and C, are formed of two moulded high-tension insulators, surmounted by 2" brass bed balls, (known to the furniture trade as "brass vases"); thru terminal A slides a brass rod having a rubber or hard-wood handle on the outer end, and a 3" flat brass disc on the inner end. Terminal C is similar but has a small brass ball on the inner end of the sliding rod. A "Dummy'' terminal, B, is mounted as shown, midway between the actual terminals. By closing the gap between the brass discs and opening that between the balls B and C, an arc discharge is obtained, while by closing gap B C, and separating the disc electrodes, the discharge forms a beautiful purple brush or "effluve."

In giving treatments the patient is seated on a folding condenser pad of thin fiber of Bakelite, Fig. 4, backed with copper or tin foil to which is attached an insulated cord connected with terminal C. The operator will require a set of vacuum electrodes.

Fig. 5, a metal hand electrode formed of an eight-inch length of 1 1/4" nickeled brass pipe, "effuve" electrode made from the gong of an old electric bell screwed on the end of a hard-wood handle, and two pieces of sheet block tin 3" x 3" x 1/32" with insulated conducting cords soldered to their corners, Fig. 6. The condenser- pad can be obtained from any electro- therapeutical supply house, as also the vacuum electrodes and other materials.

For ordinary general treatment to promote nutrition, increase circulation and elimination - a treatment of value in almost any condition of impaired health, the balls and discs are widely separated and the patient is seated on the condenser pad connected to the terminal C. Open the spark gap until a vacuum electrode lights up when held about a foot from the patient: this shows that the body is being charged inductively to a high potential, the charges alternating some 1,500,000 times per second. The patient feels nothing and is absolutely insulated from all electrical connection with the apparatus, yet hot sparks can be drawn from any part of the body showing that the whole organism is being subjected to a rapidly alternating molecular massage, which has the effect of increasing all the vital functions without acting as a stimulant. In other words the treatment tends to bring the patient into a normal condition, but it has no more effect upon a perfectly healthy person than pouring water into a pail already full. This is the reason why high frequency treatments may be safely given by those who are not physicians, whereas all other forms of therapeutic currents act as stimulants or counter-irritants and must be employed with precise knowledge and discrimination.

The condenser treatment as described above, is usually given for about fifteen minutes after which the bulb-shaped vacuum electrode is applied for a few minutes over the spine and solar-plexus. It is applied either directly to the surface of the body or thru one thickness of clothing. The insulating handle of the vacuum electrode is connected to the middle post B, in Fig. 2, and after turning on the current and placing the electrode on the patient, the discs A and B, are closed, being opened again before lifting the electrode from the surface of the body: if this is not done painful sparks will pass from the glass electrode to the patient. In treating obstinate cases of recurrent neuralgia, chronic rheumatism and partial paralysis, this vacuum sparking treatment is often beneficial, but it is rather unpleasant for most cases. A milder form of this counter-irritant effect is obtained by using the vacuum electrode over two or three thicknesses of clothing; it must be moved rapidly from place to place, otherwise the skin might be blistered.

For sedative effects and to reduce local inflammation and congestion, the vacuum electrode should always be applied directly to the skin or mucous membrane; this applies to such conditions as acute rheumatism, neuritis, tonsilitis, etc., an acute "cold m the head" ("coryza) can often be aborted in one treatment by the above technique, using the vacuum electrode over the nose and the thin slender vacuum electrode in the nasal cavity.

In treating skin diseases, such as eczema and acne, where we wish to avail ourselves of the antiseptic and tonic effects of the "effluve," we connect the effluve electrode in place of the vacuum electrode, close the discs and gradually approach the bell of the electrode to the patient until a full, blue violet effluve plays upon the surface to be treated (see Fig. 3). To obtain the best effluve effects several turns of the tuning coil should be used in series with the Tesla primary (see article in May issue). The effluve is also valuable as a general tonic in sluggish conditions of the digestive system, also in nervous depression and functional nervous diseases.

For the relief of abnormal arterial tension - ("high blood-pressure"), and in the treatment of arteriosclerosis, as well as in conditions involving excess of uric acid, we employ "D'Arsonval auto-condensation." To obtain this current we short-circuit the Tesla primary by means of the single-throw switch, and attach the condenser pad to the lowest turn of the "Solenoid" or timing coil. The patient clasps both hands around the metal "pipe" electrode connected to the upper turn of the coil, the current is turned on and the spark-gap opened until a pleasing sensation of warmth is felt flowing up the patient's arms. In all regular therapeutic high-frequency outfits, a hot-wire milli-ampere meter is placed between the patient and the machine. This is not necessary in connection with the above described apparatus, as it only delivers a maximum of 800 milli-amperes to the patient, an amount well within the limits of safety. In chronic cases auto-condensation should be given daily in twenty-minute treatments. This treatment should never be given immediately after eating, or in cases of "Bright's Disease," or in organic heart trouble. High frequency treatments are of great value even in these conditions, but they should he applied only by a skilled specialist.

In inflammation following acute infection, as in acute bronchitis, incipient pneumonia, etc., we employ "local auto-condensation" or "indirect Diathermy." In this method the patient sits upon the pad as for auto-condensation, but instead of the metal handle we employ one of the plates of block tin; this is applied in close contact with the skin over the affected area, covered with a folded towel and held in place by the patient; a sensation of deep penetrating heat is felt, and relief from the pain and congestion follows. This is one of the most valuable methods in electro-therapeutics; were it available for the general practitioner, or better still, in the patient's home, there is no doubt but that nine-tenths of the cases of acute local infectious disease could be aborted. This is also of great value in the treatment of asthma.

Statistics show that one-seventh of all recorded deaths are due to Pulmonary luberculosis ("Consumption,") : proper treatment in the home by high frequency currents would greatly increase the percentage of recoveries from this dread disease. Dr. Howard Van Renssellaer of the Albany Tuberculosis Hospital has reported 80% of cures by high frequencv treatment, and an even higher percentage is reported by Dr. Alfred Geyser of New York. The writer feels that this subject is of sufficient importance to be treated in a separate article, which will appear in next month's Electronics Experimenter under the title "The Home Treatment of Tuberculosis with High-frequency Currents."

* The new edition of the writer's book, "Essentials of Modern Electrotherapeutics." now in press, gives all needed information, with an alphabetical list of various diseases and the method of treating them electrically.

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