Surgery in Ancient Egypt
Surgery was performed on a routine basis in ancient Egypt. Medical records on papyrus along with physical remains and wall paintings, show us that they were quite sophisticated. The Egyptians have left us with some of the earliest ‘hard’ evidence of surgical techniques, tools and reasoning. Many ideas remain true to this day.
Whilst the Egyptians did not perform major surgery as conducted today, they did make major developments in surgical knowledge and practice. Egyptian physicians are known to have performed some minor surgical operations however. The Papyrus Edwin Smith informs us of methods used to treat dislocated bones, the Papyrus Ebers informs us of practices relating to the removal of cysts and tumours’ and offers a variety of methods to achieve this (cautery and bleeding).
Egyptians used antiseptic to aid the healing process, another major development in medical practice (they used Willow leaves and bark which are known to decrease the likelihood of infection).
Key Points to remember:
Anaesthetics were not available
Egyptians had a reasonable understanding of the functions of major organs
They knew that vessels carried blood around the body
Surgical practices were written down and taught to physicians
Surgery was often conducted in conjunction with healing methods derived from religious beliefs.