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Neurosurgery Print E-mail

Dr. Kennedy Unearthed evidence of brain operations, as well as surgical instruments, were found in France dating from around 7,000 B.C. Pre-Incan civilization used brain surgery as an extensive practice around 2,000 B.C. In Paracas, Peru archeologic evidence indicates that brain surgery was performed. The treatment was used for mental illnesses, epilepsy, headaches, organic diseases, osteomylitis, as well as head injuries apparently with some success. It is said that brain surgery was also used for both spiritual and magical reasons; and that the practice was limited to kings, priests and the nobility. This, however, is mere conjecture. All we have are the skeletal remains proving penetration of skulls. Surgical tools in South America were of both bronze and obsidian. Africa showed evidence of brain surgery as early as 3,000 B.C. in papyrus writings found in Egypt. A worod for "brain," the actual word itself, was used here for the first time in any language. Hippocrates, who is considered the father of medical ethics (the Hippocratic oath sworn by every doctor graduating from medical schoo), left many writtings on brain surgery. Born in 470 B.C., Hippocrates was very familiar with the clinical signs of head injuries. He also described seizures as well as spasms and classified head injuries. Many concepts found in his texts were still useful two thousand years after his death in 360 B.C. Aulus Cornelius Celsus, a Roman physician of the first century A.D. was well known for brain surgery. Hippocrates did not operate on depressed skull fractures, but Celsus did and also described the symptoms of brain injury in great detail. Asia was home to talented brain surgeons: Galenus of Pergamon in Turkey, and the physicians Oribasius of Byzance (4th century) and Paul of Aegina. An Islamic school of brain surgery flourished from 800 to 1200 A.D., at the height of Islamic influence. Abu Bekr Muhammed el Razi, 852 - 932 A.D. was perhaps the greatest of Islamic brain surgeons. Another famous Islamic brain surgeon, Abu l'Qluasim Khalaf, practiced in Cordoba, Spain, and was one of the great influences on western brain surgery. The Christian surgeons of the Middle Ages were church clerics who were educated, knowledgeable in Latin, and familiar with medical literature. Despite the church's ban on study of anatomy, many churchmen of great renown (advisors and confessors to a succession of Popes) were outstanding physicians and surgeons. Leonardo Davinci's left behind hundreds of accurate anatomical sketches indicating the intense intellectual interest in the workings of the body despite the displeasure of the Catholic Church.

In modern times, neurosurgery has come to mean much more than brain surgery. The nervous system includes not only what is in the skull, but the spinal cord and and the peripheral nerves as well. Conditions which can be dealt with by neurosurgeons include:

  • Hydrocephalus (blockage of the flow of cerebrospinal fluid)
  • Head trauma (brain hemorrhages, skull fractures, etc.)
  • Peripheral neuropathies such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and ulnar neuropathy
  • Spinal cord trauma
  • Traumatic injuries of peripheral nerves
  • Brain tumors
  • Infections and parasitic infestations of the nervous system
  • Tumors of the spine, spinal cord and peripheral nerves
  • Malformations of the nervous system
  • Cerebral aneurysms
  • Spinal disc herniation
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Some forms of hemorrhagic stroke, such as subarachnoid hemorrhages, as well as bleeding into the brain and into the ventricular system
  • Some forms of pharmacologically resistant epilepsy
  • Some forms of movement disorders (advanced Parkinson's disease, chorea) - involves the use of specially developed minimally invasive stereotactic techniques (functional, stereotactic neurosurgery)
  • Intractable pain of cancer or trauma patients and cranial/peripheral nerve pain
  • Some forms of intractable psychiatric disorders
  • Carotid artery stenosis
  • Vascular malformations (i.e., arteriovenous malformations, venous angiomas, cavernous angiomas, capillary telangectasias) of the brain and spinal cord
  • Moyamoya disease (progressive intracranial vascular constrictions of the circle of Willis, the blood supply system at the base of the brain)
  • Congenital malformations of the nervous system, including spina bifida and craniosynostosis (early fusion of hte skull bones in an infant)
  • Chiari malformations (herniation of the cerebellum through the large opening in the base of the skull)


The information in this article is not meant to be medical advice.�Treatment for a medical condition should come at the recommendation of your personal physician.

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