Surgeries that were Performed Before the Advent of Medical Technology

Surgeries that were Performed Before the Advent of Medical Technology

It is easy to be amazed by how far we humans have come in terms of medicine and surgery. Can you imagine not having medicines to treat a fever or not having any sort of procedures for a broken bone? While medical procedures are no stranger to mankind, surgeries that happened way back are even

It is easy to be amazed by how far we humans have come in terms of medicine and surgery. Can you imagine not having medicines to treat a fever or not having any sort of procedures for a broken bone? While medical procedures are no stranger to mankind, surgeries that happened way back are even more fascinating since they were performed by men with medical knowledge that is now lost to this world.

Surgeries are said to have been around since the Neolithic Age, which was a time period when humans first created technology. Some argue that surgeries most likely existed before this time period as well, specifically in countries such as India. These surgeries, that were performed long before modern day anesthesia was a thing, will absolutely shock you. Of course, there were pain-killing plants such as Datura that were used to sedate patients, but these plants were definitely not as effective as what we get in the operating room today.

  1. Cosmetic Dental Procedures

Even today we see grills on the likes of celebrities like the Kardashians, but who were the original trendsetters? Dating back to almost 7000 BC, skulls found in places like Pakistan tell us that the people of the Indus Valley Civilization were getting jewels capped on their teeth. They even had their own version of braces to straighten out their smiles. In addition, iron dental implants that are 2,300 years old were found on female skulls by archaeologists in France in 2014.

  1. Plastic Surgery

There are traces of plastic surgery going back to ancient India and 6th century BC. The Sushruta Samhita is a Sankrit text that discusses medicine and surgery and is truly one of a kind. In particular, the surgery portion of this text was one of the first to suggest that students of medicine should learn about human anatomy through dissection. In terms of plastic surgery, the book discusses nasal reconstruction and the method to be used. They would use a leaf to measure the nose and then take a portion of skin from the cheek to reconstruct the nose.

  1. Trepanation, or Brain Surgery

Trepanation is known by archaeologists and forensic scientists to be one of the oldest known surgical procedures and dates back 7,000 years or more.  Trepanation basically means drilling or cutting a hole through the skull. Based on a BBC article published in August of 2016,there are many conflicting theories on why trepanations would even be performed, but some anthropologists have found that some of these procedures were done as some sort of ritual to rid the body of evil spirits. Evidence of ritual trepanations was found in Russia, whereas in other areas it was clear that they were done for medical purposes such as head trauma and other neurological conditions. The interesting thing about this particular procedure is that many patients survived for years after the trepanation.

  1. Cataract Surgery

In a paper titled “The History of Cataract Surgery”, it is indicated that this procedure was potentially performed as early as 5th century BC, if not earlier based on wall paintings that were found in an Egyptian tomb. They used a well-known technique called couching, which basically means a blunt object would be forced into the lens of the eye to help refocus the vision. Ouch!

  1. Amputations

An early Neolithic tomb that was discovered in a town outside of Paris suggests that an amputation of a left arm belonging to a man was performed with the assistance of anesthesia. Scientists believe this to have happened almost 7,000 years ago and believe the man to most likely be a warrior. Other researchers have also found proof of 2 other amputations that happened in Germany.

  1. Perineal Lithotomy, or removal of a bladder stone

This is another procedure that was described in the Sushrita Samhita along with many other medical practice texts from various civilizations. Even Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, makes a mention of this in his book Oath of Medical Ethics. Most physicians used this procedure as a last resort after trying to disintegrate the stone through natural methods, or believed the procedure to be too risky to even try on a patient. If the stone was to be removed by a surgical procedure, a perineal incision was made first.

Vinay Dubey
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