Sushruta – Medical Pioneer of Ancient India

Sushruta – Medical Pioneer of Ancient India

Sushruta – Medical Pioneer of Ancient India

Sushruta is considered one of the earliest surgeons in recorded history and has been the first individual to describe plastic surgery in his famous ancient treatise ‘Sushruta Samhita’. He is said to have lived nearly 150 years before Hippocrates, and his renowned compendium written in 600 B.C. spells out surgical procedures in minutest detail. He is also credited to be the first surgeon to perform plastic surgery!

Many believe plastic surgery to be a new specialty. However its origins are ascertained to have existed over 4000 years back in India. The Vedas compiled in Sanskrit language between 3000 and 1000 B.C. comprise of the oldest sacred books of the Hindu religion. Of the four Vedas – ‘Sushruta Samhita’ is a part of Atharvaveda. The treatise describes ancient Indian tradition of surgery and remains a most brilliant compilation in Indian medical literature.

The treatise contains detailed descriptions of teachings and practice elucidated by this great ancient surgeon said to have been practicing in Varanasi. It also provides surgical knowledge that is of relevance to this day. As a pioneer in the field of surgery, Sushruta expounds prolifically on the healing arts that were grounded on physiology and medicine. He studied human anatomy with the help of dead bodies! Much as in medical colleges today.

The Samhita specifically describes methods for selecting and preserving dead bodies to be studied. Cadavers of elderly or severely diseased were not taken up for purposes of study. Bodies needed to be perfectly clean and were preserved with barks. They were placed in cages, hidden carefully in the river for currents to soften them. After seven days they were retrieved, cleaned with brushes for inner and outer body parts to be seen clearly.

Over 1100 diseases are mentioned in this ancient tome including 26 types of fevers, 8 kinds of jaundice and 20 different urinary disorders. There are 760 plants inclusive of roots, bark, juice, resin, flowers etc. that are described in detail for treatments. These also include common household remedies like cinnamon, sesame, peppers, cardamom, ginger and more. Additionally the treatise offers descriptions of 101 instruments used in surgery.

Sushruta’s greatest contributions were in the fields of plastic surgery and removal of cataracts. In a time when cutting of nose or ears was a common punishment, restoration of these parts and even limbs lost in wars was a common medical practice. There are detailed and accurate step-by-step descriptions of such operations. Strikingly these are the very steps followed by modern surgeons doing plastic surgery even today.

Serious procedures were undertaken like drawing fetuses out of wombs, repairing damaged rectums and removing stones from bladders. Surgical techniques included incisions, probing, extraction of foreign bodies, cauterization, tooth extraction, excisions, draining abscess, draining hydrocele, removal of prostate gland, urethral stricture dilatation, hernia surgery, management of haemorrhoids, fistulae, intestinal obstruction, perforated intestines, and accidental perforation of abdomen. Students were given knowledge of relevant branches of medicine to attain proficiency in allied subjects.

Sushruta Samhita remains an important text on medicine that is also a foundational text for Ayurveda. This seminal text was translated to Arabic as Kitab-i-Susrud in the 8th century. The Arabic translation was received in Europe by the end of the medieval period when Renaissance Italy became familiar with the techniques of Sushruta Samhita. Among other translations since then, more recently in 1999, P. V. Sharma undertook an English translation of this ancient Indian medical treatise.

First Surgeon Performing Plastic Surgery!

First Surgeon Performing Plastic Surgery!

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Sickle Cell Disease In Vidarbha Forest Areas

Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle Cell Anemia Disease Among Our Tribal Populations

The tribal belt in which HERD Foundation operates is well known for people suffering from sickle-cell disease. The disease is said to be a severe hereditary form of anemia. What happens is that a mutated form of hemoglobin distorts red blood cells into crescent shapes having low oxygen levels. It has been found that it is commonest among those of African descent.

Sickle cell anemia is the most common form of sickle cell disease or SCD. It is a serious disorder in which the body makes sickle-shaped red blood cells. Normal red blood cells are disc-shaped and move easily through blood vessels. They contain an iron-rich protein called hemoglobin that is carries oxygen from lungs to the rest of the body.

In sickle cells abnormal hemoglobin causes cells to develop into crescent shaped sickle cells that are stiff and sticky. They tend to block blood flow in blood vessels of limbs and organs. Blocked blood flow causes pain and organ damage and can raise risk of infection. Unfortunately sickle cell anemia has no widely available cure. But treatments improve anemia and lower complications by alleviating symptoms and complications.

Doctors have learned a great deal more about sickle cell anemia. They know its causes, how it affects the body and how to treat many of its complications. Sickle cell anemia may actually vary from patient to patient. With proper care and treatment people can have improved quality of life and reasonable health. Because of improved treatments and care, people having sickle cell anemia now have longer age expectancies.

Symptoms of the disease include chronic pain or fatigue. Sickle hemoglobin is highly prevalent in Vidarbha region with prevalence rate of 4-40%. It has variable clinical presentation and most patients remain asymptomatic for longer periods. Less numbers of deaths are reported due to this cause because of ignorance of autopsy surgeon in considering this disease as a cause of death despite of its high prevalence.

Sickle hemoglobin is prevalent among tribal populations of central, southern and western India. Its variable frequency ranges from 10-23%. Increased prevalence is reported in non tribal communities of these areas too. Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh show higher prevalence of this disease. Actually Central India region is a focus of sickle cell disorder and the prevalence in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra ranges between 4-40% with average sickle cell gene frequency being 4.3%.

Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle Hemoglobin is Highly Prevalent in Vidarbha Region

Food for Thought – Breaking the Silence around Women’s Ill-health

 

happy rural woman with kid

Happy Through it All

We are really surprised by the show-up by rural women in our medical health camps. They come in large numbers and sit around patiently waiting for their turns. The majority of them suffer from all kinds of aches and pains; from debilitating lower back pain, to aching calf muscles, and even chronic migraines. One would have thought that rural women – work-hardy souls, bent double with domestic drudgery and field work would enjoy deep nightly slumbers to sleep away their pains. Alas this is not so.

Nutrition plays a major role in women’s good health. Psychological well being also positively affects the physical health status. A woman’s health is often dramatically impaired by malnutrition. India currently has one of the highest rates of malnourished women among developing countries. A study in 2000 found that nearly 70 percent of non-pregnant women and 75 percent of pregnant women are anemic. One of the reasons of malnutrition remains gender imbalance in distribution of food resources.

It is an age old tradition for women to deprive themselves of all essential food items. They save it all for the next helping by brothers, sons and husbands. Studies indicate that nutritional intake in early adolescence by girls can affect her reproductive health. Maternal malnutrition has also been associated with increased risk of maternal mortality as also child birth defects. Addressing the problem of malnutrition would lead to beneficial outcomes for women and children.

Further our health care system remains skewed. It is a fact that healthcare professionals remain concentrated in urban areas. This results in people from rural areas seeking care from unqualified providers who lack formal training. HERD Foundation realizes that health is an important factor that contributes to human well-being of rural communities. Women do face multiple health problems that need to be compassionately addressed.  HERD Foundation works despite gender, class and ethnic disparities existing in rural areas through a healthcare delivery system that improvises medical services, especially for the women.