Thursday, October 19, 2017

Traditional surgeons

Traditional surgeons developed many techniques for treating wounds, Sewing is an ancient skill, but, unless antiseptics are used applying needle and thread to a wound is likely to lead to serious infection.

There is a better chance of success when the skewer and thread method used, to close a stuffed turkey is applies to wounds. An ingenious method devised by surgeons in Africa, India and the Americas requires particular species of termites or ants. The insects were brought into contract with the wound and stimulated to bite. When the insect body was broken off, the jaws remained as natural “suture clamps.”

To combats bleeding, traditional surgeons used tourniquets or cauterization or simply packed the would with absorbent materials and covered it with bandages. However the remarkable Masai repaired torn blood vessels with suture thread made from tendons.

Wound dressings often contained noxious materials such as cow dung and powered insects, as well as ingredients which might function as astringents and antiseptics.

Traditional wound dressings might contain pharmacologically valuable ingredients such as ergot in rye smut, but symbolic values are likely to predominate; the odds of finding “penicillin” in earth taken from a recent grave are vanishingly small.

Traditional surgeons were often quite skilful in the treatment of fractures and dislocations, although the treatment might be considered incomplete until the appropriate incantations were recite over the splints or a lizard’s head was tied to the wound. The shaman could also encourage the patient by breaking the leg of a chicken and applying remedies to the unfortunate fowl.

One of the major duties of the Western surgeon, or barber surgeon, until quite recent times was the practice of therapeutic and prophylactic bleeding.

Among traditional societies bleeding is usually accomplished by scarification or cupping. Unlike their European counterparts, traditional healers generally thought that taking large amount of blood was very dangerous. Despite certain dazzling exceptions, traditional surgery was limited in scope and quality.

Part of the problem was undoubtedly lack of systematic knowledge of anatomy, asepsis, anesthesia and the failure of a small tribal unit to provide enough “clinical material” for the haler to develop surgical skill through repetition.
Traditional surgeons
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