The Early Introduction of Surgical Treatments
Surgical interventions in the treatment of TB became more common in the early 20th century and the Benenden team were performing artificial pneumothorax procedures in treatment rooms from around the 1940’s. The treatment involved collapsing the infected lung to allow rest and healing.
Various items in the Museum collection are related to surgical chest procedures and these are just a few.
Drugs Come to Benenden
Streptomycin became available in 1944, the first antibiotic to be effective against TB. Here started the modern era of TB treatment. Further drug developments over the comings years significantly improved recovery from the disease.
The BCG vaccine was introduced to all secondary school children in the UK from 1953, having dramatic impact of the demand for hospital services, including Benenden. The Heaf Test was performed up-to 2005, to determine whether an individual had been exposed to TB and therefore whether the BCG was needed.
If sanatoria were to remain open, they needed to extend their services to support other conditions. At Benenden, services were extended to treat Bronchitis in 1955, although segregated from TB patients and segregated by sex at all times.
Museum notes suggest that male and female patients were strictly separated including wards, meals and recreation.
In the same year (1955), a new unit was opened that included Upper and Lower JR Williams Wards, the first dedicated operating theatre and a new x-ray department. Up to this point, patient had been transferred elsewhere for x-rays or more complex lung surgery.
Most sanatoria had closed by the 1970s but Benenden was going from strength to strength.