01 June 2009

Soaked up and squeezed out

I act as a sponge. I soak it up and squeeze it out in ink every two weeks. ~ Janet Flanner, American journalist

Readers of Shelved in the W's may be interested to know that, after a year's silence in which I attended to a serious family illness while at the same time moving to a new job, I have decided to continue writing about health, libraries, the web, and anything else that I happen to soak up.

My new blog is called Gossypiboma - for no other reason than that I liked the word when I first encountered it, with its peculiar, continent-striding etymology, the tang of operating room antiseptic, and overtones of high-minded indiscretion. See my first post at the new blog site for a definition.

Do a search on gossypiboma in PubMed for the fun of it. You'll find a perfect example of how a relatively straightforward concept can become lost in a gauzy tangle of MeSH headings. All of the following terms have been used by PubMed indexers to categorize articles on gossypibomas:

  • Surgical Sponges (often with the subheading /adverse effects)
  • Foreign Bodies
  • Foreign-Body Migration
  • Foreign-Body Reaction
  • Granuloma, Foreign-Body
  • ... and occasionally Bandages.
A gossypiboma may also be called a pseudotumo(u)r, a granuloma or (I like the poetic reverberation here) a textiloma. These troublesome little "retained" items are rare, but not that rare. Cases have been reported of patients who have carried their surgical souvenirs around for more than twenty years. Now that's retention.

I hope those of you who have been retentive readers will journey on with me as I set out in some new directions. There is so much information to explore. Let us absorb it together.

William Osler tells us in one of his aphorisms: "An old writer says that there are four sorts of readers: Sponges, which attract all without distinguishing; Howre-glasses, which receive and powre out as fast; Bagges, which retain the degrees of the spices and let the wine escape; and SIEVES, which retain the best only. A man wastes a great many years before he reaches the 'sieve' stage."

Reader, I am more Sponge than Sieve. But I will try to retain the best. And we all want to avoid becoming stuck at the Bagge stage.