At the heart of modern medical knowledge of numerous human diseases, methods of their recognition and ways to deal with them lies the experience accumulated for thousands of years.
Representations of diseases and diagnostics as scientific disciplines were formed along with the development of biological and other sciences, so the history of diagnosis is part of the general history of medicine.
In the primitive society, the healer, who used empirical and ritualistic methods to cure his tribesman, was usually considered a person with some mysterious knowledge. Nevertheless, over time, priests and healers, who constantly had to help the wounded and sick, did acquire some experience in the recognition and treatment of diseases.
At the early stages of formation of medicine, simple and obvious manifestations of diseases like fractures and injuries, a sense of pain and heat — were, apparently, the basis of primitive diagnosis. Recognition of the disease was based on the simplest empirical knowledge (experience) and research methods — examination and questioning, which were applied without a definite plan, methodology and detailed study of the symptoms of diseases.
In ancient Egypt and India, when treating patients, attention was paid to the temperature of the skin (if it was cooler or warmer than normal); in China appeared the doctrine of the pulse. The greatest importance for the development of diagnostics was the medicine of Ancient Greece — the Cnidus and the Kossko Schools (Hippocrates); the latter is regarded as the ancestor of scientific clinical medicine.
The diagnostic studies of Hippocrates (460–377 BC) were based on careful observation at the patient’s bedside: “… judgments are made through the eyes, ears, nose, hands and other methods known to us, that is, by sight, touch, hearing, smell and taste “, by comparison with a healthy or previous condition of the patient. In some cases, they had to somehow affect the patient in order to identify certain reactions or symptoms: “if the symptoms of the disease are not clear enough, then you need to help the nature” — forced the subject to move or shake his chest (succussio Hippocratis). Some medical instruments were also used, for example, a probe for the study of the uterus. There were also uterine and rectal mirrors.
Hippocrates thought that the general condition of the patient is most important, since he believed that the well-being of the part depended on the whole.
After Hippocrates, medical diagnostic was enriched with new methods of research and symptomatology of new diseases. However, a great contribution to the development of medicine and diagnostics was made by the works of K. Galen (129–201) “Corporus medicorum” and Ibn Sina (Avicenna — 980–1037) “The Canon of Medical Science”, whose influence continued until the 16th century both in Europe and in the countries of the Arab East.
With the Renaissance, new diagnostic methods were emerging. Essential for diagnosis were The attempts of Paracelsus to implement the methods of chemical and physical research into medicine, then Van Gelmanta and J. Silvius, who discovered the phenomena of fermentation and the importance of the equilibrium of acids and bases. S. Santorio, using scales and a hygrometer, tried to measure the metabolism in a special chamber, and D. Borelli applied the laws of mechanics and mathematics to explain the work of the heart and skeletal muscles.
In the XVIII and XIX centuries, new valuable methods of patient research are being implemented. A significant breakthrough for this time was the invention of percussion by L. Auenbrugger in 1761, an even greater achievement — the invention of the testoscope and the development of the method of auscultation by R. Laennec in 1819. Of great importance for the further development of medical diagnostics were the widespread introduction into the clinical practice of thermometry by L. Traube and C. Wunderlich and laboratory studies by S. P. Botkin. Of great importance was the development of the method of systematic interviewing the patient called “anamnesis” (Mudrov and Zakharin) and the methodical palpation of the abdominal cavity organs by V.P. Obraztsov (1887).
Until the beginning of the XX century the most important and basic methods of clinical study of patients were observation and physical examination. However, along with the development of basic clinical methods of diagnostic research, practical medicine during the last century began to be enriched with new diagnostics methods.
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Medicine today is closely connected with IT industry. MRI, ECG and dozens of other tests can’t be run without the use of complex computer programs, which decode large amounts of data and make it easily understandable for doctors.
Neural networks are the thing to be considered as the next step in the process of evolution of medical diagnostics. For example today neural networks are capable of making diagnostics without any participation of doctors (proof: https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm604357.htm)
For sure someone still has to make x-rays, perform blood tests, biopsy etc, but as the technology evolves — more and more things, related to medical diagnostics and treatment can be done with the help of AI.
The big problem, that is to be solved, is how to get large amounts of useful medical data in one place and make it available for independent developers so that they could create accurate neural networks, which could be really useful.