Albucasis is the pioneer of neurosurgery during the Middle Ages

Abdul Nasser KAADAN
Institute for the History of Arab Science, History of Medicine Department, Aleppo University, Aleppo, Syria

Albucasis has lived in Andalus (Spain), and died there in 1013. He is considered one of the most celebrated surgeons during the Middle Ages. The influence of his book (Kitab al-Tasrif) in the field of surgery development in general and neurosurgery in particular was tremendous. Guy de Chauliac, the "restorer of Surgery" quotes Albucasis more than 200 times. The arrangement of the work, the clear diction, and lucid explanations, all contributed to its great success. It soon became an authority quoted by medieval European physicians and surgeons more frequently than Galen himself. Albucasis describes some neurosurgical operative procedures and instruments which do not appear in extant classical writings and which may be regarded as his own. In the chapter related to Hydrocephalus treatment, Albucasis says: "If the humidity is beneath the bone, and the sign of that is that you will see the sutures of the skull gaping on all sides, you should make three incisions in the middle of the head, in this pattern. After incising, drew out all the humidity, then bind up the incision with pads and bandages, and over the bandages foment with wine and oil till the fifth day". To remove the depressive fracture in the skull, he says: "As to the manner of perforation round the fractured bone, you apply the drill to the bone and revolve it with your fingers until you know that the bone is pierced, then you transfer the drill to another place, making the distance between the perforations about the thickness of a probe. Then with the chisels cut out the bone between the perforations, using the utmost delicacy, as we have said. Then take out the bone, either with your hand or with some other instrument we have ready for the purpose, such as forceps or fine tongs. You will have to observe the utmost caution that neither drill nor chisel touch any part of the membrane".

The aim of this work is to shed light on Albucasis neurosurgery, to reveal his accomplishment and contribution in this field of surgery.

Session V -- Neurosurgery Across the Centuries
Friday, 15 June 2001, 10:00 am

Sixth Annual Meeting of the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN) and
Eighth Meeting of the European Club for the History of Neurology (ECHN)

Cologne, Germany