Insane Invention of Dr. John Epley

His "mentally handicapped invention" rescued countless patients, but was excluded and cursed by his colleagues

When electronic products such as televisions and computers are broken, people always have a habit of "just pat and pat". In the last century, he invented a technique that can cure a certain disease as high as 90%. But just because it is just a technique, without surgery or taking medicine, it was ridiculed and excluded by colleagues.

When electronic products such as televisions and computers are broken, people always have a habit of "just pat and pat".


Although I don't know what's wrong with it, the metaphysical practice of "shooting" can often restore some electronic products to normal.


If someone is sick, how about a doctor who treats you in a way similar to "patting and shaking"?

Without taking medicine or surgery, your condition really improved. Would you think it was the doctor’s credit or a coincidence?

Or the effect can be felt by the patient, but it is not so easy to get the approval of the medical community.

At the end of the last century, a doctor named John Epley faced such a dilemma.


Dr. John Epley

In the last century, he invented a technique that can cure a certain disease as high as 90%.


But just because it is just a technique, without surgery or taking medicine, it was ridiculed and excluded by colleagues.


At that time, many doctors thought that he was a "witch doctor" who treated illnesses by metaphysics.


Because of this, he was also sued in court and almost even his medical qualification was revoked.

However, he has persisted in promoting this method for more than ten years.

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, referred to as BPPV

Clinically, there is a strange and common dizziness called "Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo" (Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, referred to as BPPV).



Although this name is a bit confusing, it also has a popular name, which is what we call "otolithia".

This disease is more common in women and the elderly. Patients often experience short-term dizziness, nausea, eye tremor and occasionally vomiting.

The most typical symptom is that when I lie down at night, I suddenly feel nauseous and nauseous.

Lie down in a different position and stay still for a while, and the dizziness will disappear after a few seconds to a few minutes.


However, he just breathed a sigh of relief, turned over, and turned around again. This is what makes this disease the most painful. Over and over again, you are totally unsure when it will happen. While dizzy and unbearable, it also brings huge impact and inconvenience to life.

Robert Barani, Nobel Prize Winner in Medicine and Physiology in 1916

As early as 1921, Nobel laureate Robert Barany (Robert Barany) described the main symptoms and characteristics of this disease for the first time. But until the 1980s, all doctors were helpless.  Tens of thousands of people are still attacked by this peculiar and cruel disease every year.

Sometimes in order to stop dizziness, some doctors can only implement more extreme methods, cutting off the vestibular nerve in the form of surgery.


The dizziness does not stop dizziness, but it also damages the balance function and hearing of the human body. No one will make such a decision as a last resort.


At that time, this intractable disease that had plagued humans for a long time also attracted Dr. Epley, who loves to delve into problems.

When he was in college, he often mingled in the physics laboratory of the University of Oregon. After getting his medical degree, he also helped develop an early cochlear implant at Stanford University Medical Center.


Even after officially becoming a doctor, he is still full of enthusiasm for scientific research and experiments.


He knows that a variety of human vertigo is related to the ears, so Epley also intends to attack this problem.


Otoliths under electron microscope

By chance, he read a research report that a kind of chalk-like particles was found in the semicircular canal of the inner ear of patients with vertigo.


It was later confirmed that this kind of particles is what we often call otoliths, composed of calcium carbonate, neutral polysaccharides and protein mixtures.


Under normal circumstances, it is attached to the utricle and balloon of the vestibular system of the inner ear.


The author at the time proposed that when such particles stick to the semicircular canal of the inner ear, the receptors will send out false motion signals, resulting in positional vertigo. The two orange circles in the middle are utricles and balloons.

But this hypothesis cannot convince Epley, because it still cannot explain the "repeatability" and "paroxysm" of vertigo-if the vertigo is caused by particles sticking to the receptors, then why does the vertigo stop after a while?

In this regard, Epley put forward his own views.

The three semicircular canals are filled with lymph fluid, because the density of particles is higher than that of lymph fluid, and gravity can make these particles move.

So he speculates that when the head position changes, these particles also move, which induces vertigo.

When the patient stays still, these particles naturally follow, and the dizziness stops in this way.

Now we all know that the vestibular and semicircular canals are where the positional receptors are.


Among them, the utricle of the vestibular system can feel the linear variable motion in the horizontal direction, and the balloon can feel the linear variable motion in the vertical direction.


The otoliths attached to the two plaques are the key substances that sense acceleration in these two directions.


However, once the otoliths "fall off" from the utricle and balloon, they fall into the semicircular canal and stimulate the hair cells inside.


As a result, the sense of balance is disturbed, and the patient feels dizzy that "turns around the world".

Utricles and balloons, with otoliths attached to them. 

To get rid of this vertigo completely, Epley thought of a way-to move these particles that “shed off” into the semicircular canals and move them back to where they should be.

How to move? It can be done by the gravity gifted by nature, which can be said to be very simple and crude.


In order to imitate the movement of otoliths, he made a human inner ear system with plastic tubes, etc., and then put small metal balls into it.


Through various flips to adjust the plastic inner ear, they finally figured out a set of movements to move the otoliths lost in the semicircular canal back to their original position.

As soon as this set of "helping otoliths get out of the maze" technique was available, Aipley began to try it on patients, after all, there is no need to worry too much about side effects.


Although the treatment of turning and tilting only on the bed seems very strange, patients who are suffering from vertigo are still willing to give it a try.


At that time, the first few patients who came to seek medical treatment also felt very miraculous, and their vertigo was easily relieved without taking medicine or surgery. However, the cautious Epley still had doubts about his invention.


After all, according to past experience, this type of disease is "benign", and most patients can generally heal on their own as long as they take time.


He also didn't know whether the treatment worked or the patient relieved itself.


It was not until he rescued a patient who had been suffering from vertigo for nearly ten years before he really realized that a great invention was born.

However, he couldn't imagine how hardly anyone wanted to believe his great invention.


One day in October 1980, he was very excited to introduce his "manipulation reset" to his colleagues at a medical conference in California.


At that time, he also specially invited a young woman to show this series of reset movements in front of everyone.


However, after the demonstration, what he got was not applause, but the shaking of his head or even his eyes.


Before leaving, another doctor handed a note with the extremely scribbled "I don't want to waste my precious time listening to this kind of shit theory."

In the eyes of these doctors, Epley's methods are no different from some witch doctors.


In the past, the treatment of this disease required surgery to cure it, but now it is claimed that it can cure the patient by tilting the head a few times.


This is too ridiculous. What's the difference between using "Tap TV" to deal with the fault?

Because of this research, many of his colleagues began to doubt his medical literacy.

Sometimes he was deliberately alienated, and everyone did not want him to diagnose and treat patients.

Once, an anaesthetist saw him in the operating room to help patients with otolith reduction treatment.


The patient is an elderly woman who has lost mobility due to vertigo and can only live on a wheelchair.

After Epley's work, the patient's dizziness really disappeared.


However, the anaesthetist present would rather die than believing the situation in front of him. His backhand was a report and a complaint against Epley.

Although the hospital's investigation was in the end, Epley's struggle had just begun.

By 1983, Epley had cured many patients, and he felt it was time to submit his academic papers.


But his first paper was rejected by The Journal of Otology, saying that his therapy had no theoretical basis.

After that, he continued to revise the papers, and voted in several magazines, and eventually fell to nothing.

In a situation of nothing, even the graduate students who had been partnering with him left their own way after obtaining a doctorate.


However, the repeated rejections and the departure of the partner could not shake his determination.


Because seeing more and more patients being cured by himself, he also firmly believes that the day when he is recognized will always come.


In the face of hostile colleagues, his actions are still to constantly produce evidence and rush to promote therapy at major conferences.


The more frustrated he became, he even specially invested in the design of a revolving electric reset chair.

In this way, the rotating electric chair allows manual reduction to be applied to patients with neck injuries and obesity, so that the treatment can be completed more efficiently.

However, as soon as this device came out, in the eyes of peers, Epley looked more like a freak.


For this kind of nonsensical theory, he has built such a heavy medical device, only a fool can make it.

After suffering from cold eyes and ridicule, it was not until 1992 that one of his reports was finally adopted and published by the American Academy of Otolaryngology.


In this report, Epley described the "manual reduction" treatment of 30 patients with vertigo, which achieved an effective rate of up to 100%.


Counting from Epley's invention of this treatment technique, it has been 12 years since then, and his results were officially recognized for the first time.

That year, Epley was also 62 years old. 

However, things are not over yet, and many doctors still have prejudice against him.


In 1996, Epley received a notice from the Medical Association that he was suspected of using unauthorized medical technology and was required to cooperate with the investigation.


Misfortunes never come singly. At that time, two doctors also stood up and accused him, saying that he recklessly used neurological drugs on patients with inexperience, and they suspected that this drug would cause damage to the inner ear canal.


This not only means that his medical license may be revoked, but also the danger of being sent to prison.

Under the blow of pressure, Aipley's body is going from bad to worse.


It was already retirement age, and he had to use his pension to pay for lawyers' fees.

Sticking to oneself is not necessarily the right choice, but sticking to the truth is never wrong.


In the summer of 2001, this multi-year accusation was finally completely rejected by the judge.


The judge at the time ruled that the accusations made by the two doctors were one-sided, unobjective, and hostile.


Of course, good things should also be in pairs. In the same year, the New England Journal (NEJM) also published an article on the treatment of vertigo, stating that Epley was the inventor of "manual reduction."


To commend and commemorate Epley’s contribution, this technique is also known as the "Epley technique".

Until now, doctors all over the world are using this technique to treat this disease, which is simple and efficient.


In the clinic, 90% of patients got rid of the troubles and got rescued by this technique.


Although prejudice has delayed the promotion of Epley's technique for more than 10 years, without Dr. Aipley's persistence, perhaps the patient's path to seek medical treatment will be even more slim. 

His greatness is not only because of invention, but also because of his belief.

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