Saturday, June 14, 2008

Incan brain surgery?!


Warning: 10% disturbing and 90% incredible/cool...

From Daniel Devine in

Health care in the Inca empire probably wasn't anything to envy, but a skull surgeon was around if you needed one. Researchers studying over 400 skulls exhumed near the Inca capital city of Cuzco observed that several dozen had been bored, cut, or scraped completely through the skull wall, usually on the front or left side. The reason? It's possible the openings were made to relieve fluid pressure from head injuries, perhaps from the blow of a right-handed opponent's weapon. The procedure, called trepanation, was similar to a modern-day craniotomy.

The researchers found trepanation to be a surprisingly common practice among the Incas, and sometimes the surgery was repeated. One skull had been operated on in seven different locations.

Older skulls were less likely to show signs of healing after being perforated—which indicates the earliest surgical attempts were often fatal to patients. But by the 15th century, success rates seem to have risen to almost 90 percent, and surgeons had agreed on a technique: They carefully scraped away bone material with a sharp tool, avoiding damage to the brain beneath.

The other neat thing is how this underlines the amazing and tentative work of archaeologists and anthropologists.


At June 25, 2010 at 11:10 PM , Blogger John said...

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