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  • What is the ancient history of Surgery in India?

    Searching for the history behind Surgery? Want to know all about how it originates and whether it has been mentioned in ancient books of the vedas? Find all the information you are looking for here and also know if modern science refer to this ancient information to find a remedy.

    India has given world rich culture and heritage of ancient history books, Vedas and Upanishads. It is said that modern science and technology is already been said and found in our ancient books or Vedas. What are such sources in surgery in the medical field? Who did the first surgery in India? Are those texts still valuable? Are modern medical science refers to it while doing research or finding a remedy?
  • Answers

    5 Answers found.
  • The father of surgery was Sushruta who is also known as the main author of the treatise 'The Compendium of Sushruta'. This is one of the most outstanding treatises in Indian medical literature that describes the ancient tradition of surgery in India. He was one of the founding fathers of plastic surgery and Opthalmology in India lived between 600 60 1000 bc.
    An ancient Indian epic text, The Mahabharata also represents Sushruta as a son of Vishwamitra. Sushruta developed the surgical techniques for reconstructing noses, earlobes, and genitalia. Sushruta wrote on how anesthesia can be done, as he describes "Wine should be used before the operation to produce insensibility to pain. The patient who has been fed does not faint, and he who is rendered intoxicated does not feel the pain of the operation." This technique was used for a long period in Indian medical science until modern medical science was introduced.
    Sushruta was also known as the first surgeon who has removed cataracts.

  • Today the medical science has evolved from the basic concepts of science in the subjects like biology and chemistry. The study of human body and its anatomy has lead to unprecedented development in this area and modern surgery boasts of many unbelievable tasks being attempted by the surgeons on the human bodies. In ancient India and also might be in some other parts of the world some great scholars and knowledgeable people had studied the human body and its symptoms in diseased condition and from that they formulated some natural drugs and some basic surgical procedures to cure those ailments. It is to be noted that there learnings were in some other forms and were not exactly like the present day sciences but they were also able to do many things which might look surprising and amazing to the present day medical professionals.

    In Indian culture and history the most prominent person mentioned, who was able to execute some surgical procedures and was also able to prescribe the cure for certain diseases, was Sushruta. The life time of Sushruta is estimated about 2800 years ago sometime between 1000 BC to 600 BC. His medical treatise 'Sushruta Samhita' is the main source of all the ancient surgical procedures and ailment curing techniques. The great Indian scholar Sushruta wrote his treatise in Sanskrit which was the language of knowledgeable persons at that time and many laymen and common people could not make out anything from that. It is said that some of his texts were taken to western countries and also to China and are preserved in the library in Oxford. It is also mentioned in the medical history and related books of Eastern world that one Buddhist scholar Vasubandhu later rewrote the whole thing in simple language.

    Sushruta in his treatise highly recommended that people who want to learn to work on human body should first sharpen their knowledge about the various parts of the body by working on a dead body (corpse) and then only try to do any curative work on the live people. This is exactly what we are doing in medical colleges today as the students are learning all surgical methods on the preserved bodies in the dissection halls.

    Some of the methods prescribed in his treatise are really amazing and deal with reconstruction surgery and rhinoplasty which can reconstruct the damaged earlobes, nose, genitalia, parts of amputated regions, forehead flaps and many similar other places. He was also a pioneer in removing the cataract of eye. He had described the procedures meticulously and has advised use of natural items like leaf and bark of trees to cover the surgically treated parts. The surgery was recommended to be done with sharp knives. Grafting of skin from one place to other is explained in details. It is imperative that the great Sushruta was depending much on the body's natural tendency of healing by itself and was also using some naturally prepared pastes to accelerate that process. There are mentions of using certain oils and cotton pieces and bands place to place during the procedure. Sushruta is also credited for the cure of many lifestyle diseases like diabetes.

    It is believed by many researchers across the globe that the present day surgery has evolved from the basic principles as mentioned in Sushruta's treatise. It could be correct or not but one thing is certain that Sushruta was a great medical professional of his time and contributed much to relieve the ailing people from their sufferings. He was definitely far ahead of his times.

    Knowledge is power.

  • When we think about the ancient surgery, the name Sushruta, one of the founding fathers of surgery and plastic surgery, will come into our minds. He lived in India between 600 to 1000 B.C. His famous book called "Sushruta Samhita "(Sushruta's compendium). This book one of the great landmark about Indian medical literature. He lived, taught, and practised in what presently corresponds to the city of Varanasi which is situated in the present Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Sushruta was well known for his innovative method of rhinoplasty. He also, described on diabetes, referring to it as madhumeha.

    According to Sushruta, the surgeon should be equipped with 20 sharp and 101 blunt instruments of various descriptions to perform the surgery on his patient's body. There are different types of surgeries performed in ancient India by surgeons. Main surgeries they executed are excision of tumours, incision and draining of abscesses puncture to release fluid in the abdomen, extraction of foreign bodies, repair of anal fistulas, splinting of fractures, amputations, cesarean sections, and stitching of wounds.

    You can refer the below-mentiond books to know more about Susruta and his works.
    1. A short history of medicine written by Ackernecht EH.
    2. The Story of Wound Healing Repair written by Whipple AO
    3. An outline of the history of medicine in India by Johnston-Saint P
    4. Studies in the medicine of ancient India by Hoernle AF
    5. Commentary on the Hindu system of medicine by Wise TA
    6. A history of rhinoplasty by Eisenberg I

    Charaka, a noted physician also lived in ancient India. His noted book "Charaka Samhita" given some light about the surgery methods along with many other subjects.

    One can easily say that apart from these, the ancients Indians didn't have any great knowledge about surgery and anatomy. This is because Hindus were prohibited by their religion from cutting the dead body. The Sushruta-Samhita recommends that a body be placed in a basket and sunk in a river for seven days. On its removal the parts could be easily separated without cutting. As a result of these crude methods, the emphasis in Hindu anatomy was given first to the bones and then to the muscles, ligaments, and joints. They know very less and imperfectly about the nerves, blood vessels, and internal organs. This is a crucial point to be noted even if we boasting about Susruta samhita.


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  • 1. The first surgery performed on the human body around 23720 BC. A Prosthetic leg was attached to a queen's leg. The process of this was mentioned in Rig-Veda.
    2. Susrutha performed surgeries 2600 years ago with surgical instruments. It was mentioned that he performed surgery on nose, ears, bladder, cataract, fistula, joints, etc.
    3. Around 6th-century plastic surgery was also performed.
    4. Jabamukhi Salaka is the instrument as per the available literature used to perform cataract
    5. SUrgeries for removing stones from the kidney were also mentioned in ancient Indian books.

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  • Sushruta was regarded as the father of the Indian Medicines during the period of 6 th century BCE giving detailed guidance in his text where he has given numerous guidelines relating to medicines and surgery. Sushruta Samhita is the compilation of earliest works in the area of medicine. It is based on the system of Aurveda and is highly regarded as one of the great treatise dealing with efficacies of Ayurvedic Medicines especially in the healing up wounds after surgery.
    Sushruta Samhita has documented the ethology of more than thousand diseases and to tackle all such diseases hundreds of medicinal plants mostly Ayurveda were employed to alleviate the disorder. This treatise has provided for performing scores of surgerical procedures including three types of skin grafts and reconstruction of the nose.
    His Work on Rhinoplasty-
    Rhinoplasty deals with nose surgery and is done to achieve twin results-
    1) To improve the breathing function of the nose.
    2) Improvement of the cosmetic look of the nose.
    The practice of Rhinoplasty was felt essential to extend help to the needy patients with the usage of flap of skin from the forehead to form a new nose .
    Other Contributions-
    1) Sushruta prescribed measures to induce growth of lost hairs and the removal of unwanted hairs.
    2) He has provided details of 12 varieties of fracture and sux type of dislocation. Some of his outlines are still followed by Orthopedic Surgeons even today.
    3) He has explained the details the principle of traction, apposition, manipulation, stabilisation and post operative Physiotherapy.

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