Lives of brain injury patients are saved thanks to ancient Egyptian surgery

Brain injury patients’ lives are saved thanks to ancient Egyptian-style surgery that involves drilling a hole in their skulls to reduce swelling

  • Dating back to the time of the pharaohs could save thousands of people who suffer brain injuries every year
  • It involves making a hole in the skull to reduce swelling and pressure on the brain – in a similar procedure to the ancient Egyptians as a religious ritual
  • Research has found that patients undergoing the surgery – decompressive craniectomy – are one-fifth more likely to survive than those who receive standard medication

An operation from the time of the pharaohs could save thousands of people every year who suffer brain injuries.

It involves making a hole in the skull to reduce swelling and pressure on the brain – in a procedure similar to the ancient Egyptians as a religious ritual.

A new study has found that patients who undergo the surgery, called a decompressive craniectomy, are one-fifth more likely to survive than those who receive standard medications.

Professor Peter Hutchinson, a neurosurgeon consultant at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge who led the study, said: ‘Without a doubt, the surgery could save lives.’

An operation from the time of the pharaohs could save thousands of people every year who suffer brain injuries. It involves making a hole in the skull to reduce swelling and pressure on the brain – in a similar procedure to the ancient Egyptians as a religious ritual

Every year, some 160,000 Britons are hospitalized with brain injuries, often caused by traffic accidents and falls.

When the brain is injured, fluid can collect in the skull, creating pressure that can restrict blood flow. Eventually, brain cells begin to die, causing amnesia, paralysis, and even death.

Patients are usually treated with medications, but if these don’t work, doctors may opt for a procedure called a ventriculostomy, in which a tube is inserted through a hole in the skull to drain excess fluid.

Every year, some 160,000 Britons are hospitalized with brain injuries, often caused by traffic accidents and falls

Every year, some 160,000 Britons are hospitalized with brain injuries, often caused by traffic accidents and falls

In a craniectomy, a larger 5-inch hole is made in the back of the skull and part of the membrane surrounding the brain is removed, immediately reducing pressure.

The skin is then stitched back over the hole. Once the injury has healed, the hole in the skull is covered with a titanium plate.

Previous research suggested that decompressive craniectomy carries a high risk of leaving patients disabled, but in a new study of 408 patients published in the journal JAMA Neurology, patients who underwent a craniectomy were 21 percent more likely to survive for two years than they were. those who were treated with drugs, and were more likely to have a good recovery.

Russell Ramplin, 42, from Ipswich, had a craniectomy in 2020 after a motorcycle accident. He has since recovered almost completely and earlier this year had the missing part of his skull replaced with a titanium plate at Addenbrooke.

He says, ‘I’m back on my feet. I have a job, a place to live and I have no pain.

“It saved my life. I’m sure it can save others.”

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