The History of Brain Surgery

Neurosurgery is quite possibly one of the oldest medical practices, and Dr. Michael Schlitt is more than happy to continue this ancient tradition to this day.  Unfortunately, there is no hard evidence for a set date of the start of neurosurgery, but there is evidence of brain surgery dating back to the Neolithic period.  During an archeological dig in France, the remains of successful brain operations and surgical implements were found, dating back to 7,000 BC.  With such primitive tools as stone knives and such a rudimentary medical knowledge, it’s hard to imagine that brain surgeries were terribly successful at this era.  However, the success rates for these surgeries were actually quite high.

old skull

An ancient skull, showing signs of brain surgery.

Brain surgery was found not only in ancient Europe, but all around the world; in Peru, Indian civilizations were practicing it as early as 2,000 BC, and with a very high success rate.  Brain surgery was used for mental illnesses, epilepsy, headaches, organic diseases, osteomylitis and head injuries.  In Egypt, papyrus writings indicate brain surgery as early as 3,000 BC.  Hippocrates, the father of modern medical ethics, left numerous texts about brain surgery as well, describing such phenomena as seizures, spasms, head cotusions, fractures and depressions with astounding accuracy.  Some two thousand years after his death, many of the concepts in his texts were still used.

During the Middle Ages, an Islamic school of brain surgery flourished from the 9th to the 13th centuries.  Despite the Catholic Church’s ban on the study of anatomy in medieval Europe, many clerics proved to be excellent physicians and surgeons.  The father of modern neurosurgery, however, was Harvey Cushing, who developed many of the basic surgical techniques used for operating on the brain.  Under his influence, neurosurgery became a new and autonomous surgical discipline.  He developed many surgical instruments that are still used today, such as the Cushing Forcep.

Nowadays, neurosurgery has gone a long way, but Dr. Michael Schlitt works to honor their tradition to this day.