About the history of health & neurosurgery

» Posted on Dec 4, 2014 in Health

The history of neurosurgery is a fascinating study that shows how far this medical specialty has come over the centuries. The first true surgery on the nervous system was something called “trephination.” This involved opening holes in the skull to expose the brain to open air to release bad “spirits.” Historians now think this procedure was used to treat migraine headaches and seizures. There is evidence this operation was being performed back as far as 10,000 years ago, and skulls exist showing the patients survived and healed from this procedure.

neurosurgeryFor many, many centuries there were no new developments in the field. This reflected both the lack of understanding about how the brain worked, the lack of diagnostic tools available to perform research into body systems, and the lack of adequate medicines and sanitary conditions to perform successful surgery on any part of the body (including the nervous system). This began to change in the 19th century. William Macewen (1848–1924) was the first practitioner of ‘”modern” neurosurgery. For example, he was able to remove a left frontal meningioma (a tumor that forms in the membranes called “meninges” that surround nervous system tissues) from a teenager in 1879, and the patient was able to subsequently return to work.

The next big name in the field was Harvey Cushing. He was the founder of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Cushing also experimented with cocaine nerve blocks and developed successful methods of pain reduction. He also most likely created the term “regional anesthesia.” Cushing was also a huge advocate in the use of X-rays as a diagnostic tool to find maladies in the body. From these humble roots have developed the current field that relies heavily on computers and robotics. The progress in neurosurgery has indeed been amazing.