Plastic surgery's earliest cases date to ancient Egypt, India 
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 Plastic surgery's earliest cases date to ancient Egypt, India

These excerpts were posted by S. Pavithran.

The Washington Post
December 13, 1994, Tuesday, Final Edition

Altered Images;
Plastic Surgery's Earliest Cases Date to Ancient Egypt, India

By Thomas V. DiBacco, Special to The Washington Post

Plastic surgery, the reshaping of body tissues for reconstructive
or cosmetic purposes, dates back to antiquity. Derived from the
Greek plastikos and the Latin plasticere, both meaning to mold, the
surgery was employed in instances of battle wounds or animal

Egyptians performed plastic surgery as early as 3400 B.C., but it
was in India, sometime between the sixth century B.C. and the sixth
century A.D. when the Hindu medical chronicle Susruta Samhita was
written, that the skill evolved.

[The science and practice of plastic surgery was developed by
 Ayurvedic physicians in India more that 6,000 years ago.]

Indian surgeons devised what came to be known as the attached-flap
method of plastic surgery as a solution for the punishment for
{*filter*}ery -- the cutting off of the nose. In the procedure, skin
transplanted to the nose area was kept ali by remaining attached to
healthy tissue. As the Susruta Samhita explained:

"When a man's nose has been cut off or destroyed, the physician
takes the leaf of a plant which is the size of the destroyed parts.
He places it on the patient's cheek and cuts out of this cheek a
piece of skin of the same size (but in such a manner that the skin
at one end remains attached to the cheek). Then he freshens with
his scalpel the edges of the stump of the nose and wraps the piece
of skin from the cheek carefully all around it, and sews it at the

"Then he places two thin pipes in the nose where the nostrils
should go, to facilitate breathing and to prevent the sewn skin
from collapsing. There after he strews powder of sapan wood,
licorice-root and barberry on it and covers with cotton. As soon as
the skin has grown together with the nose, he cuts through the
connection with the cheek."

The Greek physician Galen (130-201 A.D.) performed reconstruction
of the nose, ears and mouth, but plastic surgery fell into disuse
in Europe for the next thousand years. During the Middle (or Dark)
Ages. it became the target of the Catholic Church because surgery
ran the risk of inflicting death upon patients. What's more, the
spilling of {*filter*} by a surgeon and the power that he held over a
patient's body were suggestive of sorcery.
Not until the 18th century, when British surgeons in  India  saw
the attached-flap surgery performed, did the procedure make headway
in northern Europe.
Plastic surgery came to America in the 19th century. It was the
hallmark of itinerant, untrained surgeons who promised far more
than they could deliver in correcting various deformities. Their
patients often were left with complications and ugly scars, giving
the practice a bad name.
Thomas V. DiBacco is a historian at American University.

End of Forwarded Excerpts.

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Wed, 04 Jun 1997 08:39:18 GMT
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