A lot has been said about the advances that India has made in the field of medicine. The top end health care centres in the country are considered some of the best in the world and attract patients from every corner of the globe. Due to the high quality of treatment, as well as the low costs, Indian hospitals and doctors are immensely popular. But are you aware of just how rich the Indian heritage is when it comes to medical sciences? The first plastic surgeon in this world was an Indian and there are written documentations of this fact.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have recently mentioned that the first plastic surgery of this world was performed by Lord Shiva on his son Ganesha, where an elephant’s head was grafted on the dead boy, but had he wanted, he could have easily picked a lot more credible source. Many experts may believe that the Vedas and Indian epics are works of fiction, but the Sanskrit records that described the work of Sushruta are considered authentic by renowned experts everywhere. It was the Sushruta that described in writing how to perform a plastic surgery, that too all the way back in 600 BC. In fact, he even described the process of rhinoplasty in his treatise on medicine, something that the Europeans could only perfect in the 19th century.
A written record of Sushruta’s work exists, known as the Sushruta Samhita. Over a thousand diseases have been covered in this work, along with remedies to treat them. From the usage of herbs, to extracting minerals for creating specialised medicine, and even surgery has been expounded upon in these manuscripts.
Written in Sanskrit, the Sushruta Samhita dates back to the times before Christ, and is one of the earliest works in the field of medicine. It forms the foundations of the ancient Hindu form of medicine known as Ayurveda.
An advanced research into the field of surgery
Sushruta made advances in the field of surgery that were far ahead of his time. Some of the procedures he discussed in the manuscripts could not be perfected by European doctors until the 19th century. Some topics covered by Sushruta include hernia surgery, caesarean section, tooth extraction and more. He also discussed proper cauterisation method to stop bleeding along with the procedure to properly drain abscess in a safe manner.
While a lot of these treatments are commonplace today, to think that they had been researched and perfected centuries ago is nothing short of a wonder. Sushruta did not limit himself to merely healing wounds and fixing diseases, he even touched upon the subject of plastic surgery in his work. In one of these incidents he even discussed rhinoplasty.
As per Sushruta, the skin from the cheek can be used to reconstruct the nose in case it needed mending in any way. This is the earliest recorded incident of skin grafting in records anywhere. More than just removal and placing of the skin, Sushruta also discussed the proper way to treat the skin and prepare it for grafting. He suggested that physician use liquorice and sandalwood to first treat the freshly removed skin and then graft it. Such detailed reviews of highly advanced medical procedures are the reason Sushruta is considered the forefather of modern medicine and surgery by many.
Along with Charak Samhita and the Bower Manuscripts, the work by Sushruta forms the basis of modern day Ayurveda. He may very well have laid the foundations for modern day corrective and cosmetic surgery. Experts continue to study his work even today, and wonder at the brilliance of a man so ahead of his peers.