Historical Medical Question: Head Injury 1870s

April Asks:

skull-476740_1920I have a question regarding medicine in the 1870’s.  What would brain/cranial surgery consist of then?

I’ve tried to find some information on this type of operation from this time period, but have had very little luck so far.  In a quick scenario, there’s been a serious buggy accident, and the heroine of the novel has bleeding on the brain. I know one proposed procedure for this was to actually drill a hole into the skull to let out the influx of blood. Was this happening and being practiced in the 1870’s? Also, what would the medical instruments of the day have been to achieve such a surgery?

Jordyn Says:

This could definitely be a set up for a craniotomy (drilling a hole into the skull or creating a burr hole) to be used to relieve pressure within the cranium. The procedure would have been called trephining and was definitely used during your time period. Two resources for the procedure can be found here and here.

2 thoughts on “Historical Medical Question: Head Injury 1870s

  1. Jordyn, one of the banes of my existence (I have a number) is a question like this from authors of historical fiction. I want to tell them that I wasn’t around in those days, but I realize that I “speak the language,” so I end up doing what everyone else can–checking the Internet. Trephination or trepanning has been around for a long time, and the sources you quote are good. Two others are Frontier Medicine by David Dary (Knopf, 2008) which covers from 1492 to 1941 (this one may be hard to find) and the site http://discoveriesinmedicine.com.

    Liked by 1 person

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