Common Civil War Medical Terms

~There were many medical terms used during the Civil War, below are the most used and most common. (6)


AGUE: Fever or other recurrent symptom resulting from malaria amputation: Removal of an appendage of the body, usually a limb. Using a single flap and by making a circular cut at a 90 degree angle to the long axis of the appendage.

PRIMARY: Surgery done following the period of shock and before inflammation sets in. Done within the first 24 hours.

SECONDARY: Performed to improve an earlier amputation

ANODYNES: Medicine that relieves pain

APOPLEXY: Stroke, sudden impairment due to a cranial hemorrhage. Or extravasation of blood in any organ.

ASTHENIA: Weakness

BILIOUS ATTACK: Diseases such as malaria or typhoid. Applied groups of symptoms are headache, abdominal pain, and constipation.

BLUE MASS: Known as blue pill.  Mercury mass used for many conditions.

BRIGHT’S DISEASE: General term for kidney diseases.

CAMP, STATE: Made up of various symptoms such as fever and diarrhea that occurred because troops were so close together.

CHOLERA: Infectious disease caused by extreme diarrhea with severe fluid loss, resulting in dehydration that can later lead to death.

EXCISION: Removal by cutting, often used instead of performing an amputation.

OSTEOMYELITIS: Inflammation of bone, often causes a fever and can lead to death if extremity is not amputated.

PERITONITIS: Often the cause of death in abdominal wounds. Inflammation of the internal membrane lining the abdomen and pelvic walls.

SUPPURATION: Formation of pus. Looked on as a good sign during the 1860’s.