Trepanation Was a Bloodcurdling Form of Neurosurgery

Yana Bostongirl

Trepanation comes from the Greek word "trypanon" which means "to bore." It is humanity's oldest form of surgery and involves the drilling of a hole in the skull.

According to reports, the procedure was done on individuals who were fully conscious or unanesthetized: "Even though there was knowledge of anesthesia, and there were mixtures used to put patients into a deep sleep, they were very risky. Sometimes the mixture involved too much hemlock and the patient never woke up. In some cases, physicians opted to skip the risk involved with anesthesia."

Despite the grisly nature of this form of surgery, it was quite popular and widespread as described in the following excerpt: "During Neolithic times, the practice was — perhaps surprisingly — widespread. From a period when long-distance travel and the exchange of ideas was limited, experts have unearthed skulls bearing the marks of trepanning in Europe, Siberia, China, and the Americas; it was all the rage."

The purpose of trepanation varied from culture to culture. The same could be said about the instruments used for carrying out this procedure. Some of the reasons include:

*The hole created in the skull was believed to release demons that were causing illness in the patient.

* It was part of tribal or superstitious rituals.

* It was used to treat a variety of conditions ranging from headaches to seizures as well as mental illnesses and blood clots.

As per reports, the evidence gathered from trepanned skulls points to the fact that many survived the procedure and lived to tell the tale: "There have been 8 skulls found from the period from the 6th to the 8th centuries that showed evidence of trepanning. Of the 8 skulls, 7 showed signs of healing and survival which suggests that there were low infection rates with trepanning and high survival rates when compared with other procedures like bloodletting."

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