A Muslim doctor, known in the West as Albucasis, was considered the most outstanding medieval surgeon in the Islamic world. Many call him the father of modern surgery. His greatest contribution to medicine is the thirty-volume work ‘Kitab al-Tasrif’, a large encyclopedia of medical practice. Albucasis’ pioneering contribution to the development of surgical procedures and instruments had a significant impact on the East and West. Some of his discoveries are still used in medicine. Albucasis was the first doctor to describe ectopic pregnancy and determine the hereditary nature of hemophilia.
Abul-Qasim Khalaf Ibn al-Abbas al-Zahrawi was born in 936 in Zahra in the Cordoba region. He became one of the most famous surgeons in the Muslim world and was the doctor of the Caliph of the Cordova Caliphate al-Hakam II. He was engaged in treatment for over 50 years.
Unlike many doctors in modern hospitals, al-Zahrawi insisted on seeing all patients regardless of their financial condition. While consulting a very large number of people every day, he recorded their medical histories and diagnoses. So there was an extremely valuable collection of medical knowledge, which the famous surgeon called “al-Tasrif”.
“Al-Tasrif”, is composed of thirty volumes covering different aspects of medical science. The most important part of this encyclopedia consists of three books on surgery that describe in detail various aspects of surgical treatment based on the operations performed by him, including cauterization, removal of a bladder stone, animal dissection, obstetrics, and eye, ear, and throat surgery. He perfected several delicate operations, including removal of a dead fetus and amputation.
Al-Zahrawi was the inventor of a number of surgical instruments, three of which are notable: an instrument for internal examination of the ear, an instrument for internal examination of the urethra, and an instrument for applying or removing foreign bodies from the throat.
In addition, he was the first to use catgut for internal sutures. Catgut is a special thread made from the shell of the intestines of animals. This is the only material that can be used for surgical sutures, as it resolves over time, which prevents the need for repeated surgery to remove the sutures.
He was the first to use forceps in childbirth, significantly reducing the mortality of infants and mothers. Al-Zahrawi performed a tonsillectomy with the same tongue restraints, hooks, and scissors that are used today. He used both local and oral anesthesia to reduce patients ‘ pain during surgery.
Reacting to each new case with skill, the famous surgeon revolutionized medical procedures with the following innovations: replacing a missing tooth with a bone; attaching healthy teeth to loose ones with gold or silver wire; surgical intervention for sagging mammary glands; the first use of cotton to stop bleeding, the use of plaster bandages; tracheotomy; the use of a thin surgical drill to insert into the urethra for urolithiasis.
How did he deal with the bleeding?
Al-Zahrawi formulated the surgeon’s tactics-four ways to deal with bleeding: by cauterization; by cutting off the artery, if it is tightly bandaged; by applying hemostatic agents and a tight bandage. Knowledge of these methods of stopping bleeding was mandatory for doctors who were engaged in surgical practice. Knowing and being able to operate on blood vessels was also important because one of the widely used therapeutic methods at that time was bloodletting. It can be added that the ability to fight bleeding, apply ligatures to blood vessels helped Albucasis successfully treat vascular aneurysms.
The work of al-Zahrawi, which seemed to link ancient surgery and the surgery of medieval Europe, for several centuries remained an authoritative guide for all those who were engaged in the surgical treatment of human diseases, and Al-Zahrawi himself was a kind of symbol of medieval Arabic surgery.
- A Surgeon for All Times: Abu al-Qasim Al-Zahrawi – SCI Planet
Abu Al-Qasim Al-Zahrawi (936-1012 CE), Icon of Medical Surgery – Science Direct
- Abulcasis, the pharmacist surgeon – Hektoen International