Uroscopy by Hippocrates and Theophilus: prognosis versus diagnosis

Here we present the ‘Abstract‘ of the corresponding paper by Kouba E, Wallen EM, Pruthi RS.



In antiquity the visual examination of urine (uroscopy) is well documented. Uroscopy gradually evolved from a prognostic indicator to a diagnostic tool. Comparison of the uses of uroscopy by Hippocrates (400 BC) and Theophilus (700 AD) illustrates this transformation.


We reviewed medical and historical literature as well as the translated works of Hippocrates.


Although Hippocrates was one of the first physicians to use urine to interpret human body functioning, urine was mainly used as a means for prognosis and prediction of outcomes of illness. In his text De Urinis Theophilus introduced an innovative doctrine and used uroscopy for diagnosis of illnesses. In this respect uroscopy became a paradigm for later diagnostic strategies and is considered an important milestone in the history of clinical diagnosis.


Hippocrates’ writings displayed uroscopy used in examination of illness. However, he considered it in the context for accurate prognoses. Theophilus treated uroscopy in a sophisticated objective manner and attempted to use uroscopy in an orderly, systemic method to accurately diagnose illness. It was through these approaches to uroscopy that Theophilus became one of the physicians who contributed to the birth of medieval medical studies.

(Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17161998)


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