COUNCIL CHRONICLE – As astounding as it might seem, a team of medical researchers from the University of Miami discovered that ancient Peruvian doctors achieved better results in brain surgery compared to American Civil War surgeons. Unearthed skulls revealed that prehistoric Peru doctors maintained a trepanation mortality rate between 17% and 25%, compared to 46% to 56% in Civil War battlefield neurosurgery.
Peruvian Honed Trepanation Skill Over Centuries, Study Reveals
David S. Kushner, a University of Miami clinical professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation, and the project’s senior researchers declared that the recently published study casts a different type of light on Ancient neurosurgical techniques.
The study, which was based on the analysis of 800 prehistoric Peruvian skulls, revealed that prehistoric doctors achieved a far better survival rate compared to those from the Civil War era.
An analysis of the skulls proved that Peruvian docs were masters at their crafts, meaning that they had a good grasp of the head’s anatomy.
For instance, Peruvian docs performing a trepanation, knew that perforating the brain’s thin membrane was an open invitation to infections. Furthermore, these ancient neurosurgeons would drill several small holes to relieve intracranial pressures instead of drilling a single, big one. Some skull had as many as seven small holes in them.
Based on the University of Miami’s estimates, the rate of mortality in prehistoric Peruvian neurosurgery was between 17% and 25%.
On the other hand, Kushner’s study revealed that three centuries of medical development did not help American Civil War surgeons lower the mortality rate. Statistics show that the mortality rate in case of Civil War trepanations was somewhere between 46% and 56%.
Kushner explained that military surgeons often had to improvise. Poor quality surgical equipment and the lack of disinfectant could have contributed to the mortality rate. The study’s lead author said that battlefield surgeons were often poking around head wounds without having their hands sterilized.
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