Many of today’s modern medical procedures seem to be at the cutting edge of human understanding and technology, and . However, the era of many advanced medical procedures began with one man a very long time ago, who brought a revolution to mankind with his ancient measures for treating severe health adversities.
Sushruta, an Indian physician, is regarded today as the “Father of Medicine” and, perhaps more surprisingly, as the “Father of Plastic Surgery”. Living in Kashi, an ancient city in northern India known as Varanasi today, he wrote one of the earliest medical and surgery works in the 6th century BC.
For centuries, Sushruta Samhita was the go-to for information on operations and techniques, and was the prime source of knowledge on surgery across India. This entire book was written in Sanskrit, and 600 years before Jesus he is said to have formed the basis of Indian medicine, known as Ayurveda. This book is considered one of the three texts in a “Great Trilogy of Ayurvedic Medicine” and perhaps the greatest of the three.
His great text included information on diagnosis and treatment of over 1,100 diseases and the use of hundreds of medicinal plants. There were also many instructions in that book for the completion of surgical procedures, some of them quite extensive and severe.
The book also had three major types of skin grafting surgeries and nose reconstructions. And for this, Sushruta is often considered to be the world’s first plastic surgeon.
A Brilliant Man in an Ancient Time
It is important to emphasize how early in human history Sushruta made these breakthroughs. The great Greek and Roman compilers and physicians such as Hippocrates, Galen, and Celsus appeared centuries later.
This was a man who lacked the benefit of their work to built upon, and yet was able to perform immensely complex procedures such as repairing cut earlobes, earlobe piercing, fixing cut lips, and skin grafting. He used ancient instruments for carrying out all of these surgeries, much of the equipment manufactured by himself.
Sushruta belonged to a rich heritage and was one of the several learned scholars. As per some historians, Sushruta learned life science and medicine surgery from Dhanwantari, another “Father of Medicine”.
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Other sources have Sushruta learning his trade from Divodasa, who was the physician king of Benares (another name for Varanasi). Records are of course extremely limited from so long ago, and some even consider the two teachers to be the same man.
All of this creates a lot of confusion about the origin of Sushruta. It is clear that he practiced surgery and then taught the same to many of his disciples at Benares University, which was situated on the river banks of the Ganges, some time around around 600 BC.
His advanced medical history includes a monumental thesis, which was given the name “Sushruta Samhita” or “Sushruta’s Compendium”. It is considered the oldest of all surgical texts, and contains advanced and extensive details on diagnosis, prognosis, examination, and treatment of many ailments. It also contains cosmetic surgery, rhinoplasty, and plastic surgery procedures.
Detailed, informed and extremely helpful, Sushruta Samhita was the document that shared the knowledge and wisdom of Sushruta with the entire world. Furthermore, Sushruta Samhita was translated into several languages for spreading this medical information to everyone across the globe. It was translated into Arabic, Latin, German, English, and others.
Sushruta Samhita is divided into five different principal sections. Sushruta was concerned about how to best structure his text to ensure the guide was as clear and helpful as possible, which could be taken forward with timely evolutions. Therefore, he divided his text as follows:
“Sutrasthana”: the primary principles which are laid out in the first section over 46 chapters, explaining the basic principle of pharmacology and medical sciences.
“Nidana”: 16 chapters that deal with only the pathological concepts.
“Sarirasthana”: 10 chapters dedicated to human anatomy.
“Chikitsasthanam”: 34 chapters on surgical and medical management.
“Kalpasthanam”: eight chapters on toxicology.
The information in these five sections is precise, useful, and largely free from error even to modern eyes. It is very clear that someone who has performed these surgeries precisely is the only person who could write them in so much depth.
One of the methods that he mentioned within the book for studying human anatomy was that he let the corpse decompose in a river. Once the flesh had loosened, Sushruta would then scrub the body in layers to determine some structural details about the human body.
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The surgical textbook had detailed techniques on incisions, the use of alkali, cauterizing wounds with heated metal, excision, tooth extraction, probing and investigative surgery, foreign body extraction, and methods for safely draining abscesses and other fluids. The book also had information on invasive surgery, for example offering methods to repair damage to intestines.
A Practical Guide
Sushruta mentioned the use of ant-heads as the prime material for stitching together such wounds. He has mentioned and carried out even more complex procedures, including prostate gland removal, dilation of urethral stricture, hernia surgery, aiding birth through Cesarean section, vesicolithotomy (the removal of bladder stones), hemorrhoids management, laparotomy (abdominal surgery), and the treatment of post-surgical fistulae and other complications.
Apart from the surgery instructions, the book also had details on treating fractures, dislocations, and bone classifications. It highlighted the immediate reactions of the body to such bone injuries. He elaborated on traction, manipulation, stabilization, apposition, and fracture management, and even rehabilitation and use of prosthetics.
In short, he contributed to modern medicine by giving the world an introduction to 1,120 illnesses, 700 medicinal plants, 57 preparations from animal sources, and 64 preparations from mineral sources.
Sushruta did not limit the book to just procedures, but he also described the type of surgical instruments, irrigating syringes, and catheters. He gave the details of manufacturing these instruments, as he used to make them all by himself. Here was the entirely of medicine distilled into one man.
Sushruta became most famous however for introducing surgical rhinoplasty, or nasal reconstruction. This process describes repairing a disfigured nose with the use of a skin flap taken from the forehead. Earlier in that time, the criminals were punished by amputating their noses, which Sushruta used to repair or fix with medical treatments.
This is one technique that is practiced with the same approach, even today! Sushruta ushered the world into a new Golden Age of Surgery, one that recognized the root cause of many problems in a time where many chose to rely on the gods to heal them. His understanding of medicine makes him seem like a man from the future.
Sushruta’s wisdom has been passed on to the modern generation. The information, procedures, and techniques were all broadly correct and are still followed today, and the evolution of technology has only enhanced the process of these treatments. The root of it still connects to the Sushruta Samhita, and its author, the Father of Medicine.
Top Image: How did Sushruta come to understand so much about modern medicine? Source: Alokprasad / CC BY-SA 3.0.
By Bipin Dimri
India Today, 2019. Know all about Sushruta, the first-ever plastic surgeon who was Indian. Available at: https://www.indiatoday.in/education-today/gk-current-affairs/story/sushruta-works-indian-physician-medicine-plastic-surgery-rhinoplasty-nose-job-1559599-2019-07-01
Champaneria, M; Workman, A; Gupta, S, 2014. Sushruta: father of plastic surgery, Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23788147/#:~:text=Sushruta%20is%20considered%20the%20%22Father,of%20medicine%20in%20ancient%20India
Bath, K; Aggaral, S; Sharma, V, 2016. Sushruta: Father of plastic surgery in Benares. Available at: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0967772016643463
Saroshe, S, 2016. Sushruta: the ancient Indian surgeon. Available at: https://hekint.org/2017/01/22/sushruta-the-ancient-indian-surgeon/
ancient textIndiamedicinephysicanplastic surgeryteacher
Bipin Dimri is a writer from India with an educational background in Management Studies. He has written for 8 years in a variety of fields including history, health and politics.
Was sushruta the first surgeon? ›
Ayurveda is one of the oldest medical disciplines. The Sushrutaa Samhita is among the most important ancient medical treatises and is one of the fundamental texts of the medical tradition in India along with the Charak Samhita. Sushruta is the father of surgery.Who was the first plastic surgeon in India? ›
Sushruta is considered the "Father of Plastic Surgery." He lived in India sometime between 1000 and 800 BC, and is responsible for the advancement of medicine in ancient India.Who was sushruta why is he significant? ›
Sushruta, one of the founding fathers of surgery and plastic surgery, lived in India sometime between 600 to 1000 B.C. His Sushruta Samhita (Sushruta's compendium), one of the most outstanding treatises in Indian medical literature, describes the ancient tradition of surgery in India.Who was the greatest surgeon of ancient India? ›
Sushruta took surgery in medieval India to admirable heights and that era was later regarded as the 'Golden Age of Surgery' in ancient India. The genius of Sushruta prompted eminent surgeon Allen Whipple to declare, "All in all, Sushruta must be considered the greatest surgeon of the pre-medieval period."Who did the first surgery in history? ›
Ayurveda. Sushruta (c. 600 BCE) is considered as the "founding father of surgery". His period is usually placed between the period of 1200 BC - 600 BC.What was the first surgery in history? ›
6500 B.C.: Evidence of trepanation, the first surgical procedure, dates to 6500 B.C. Trepanation was the practice of drilling or cutting a hole through the skull to expose the brain. This was thought to cure mental illness, migraines, epileptic seizures and was used as emergency surgery after a head wound.Who is famous for plastic surgery in India? ›
Dr. Vinod Vij is India's one of the best Plastic & Cosmetic surgeons. Performing rhinoplasty (nose job), blepharoplasty, abdominoplasty (tummy tuck), liposuction, breast reduction and augmentation, chin implants, and other cosmetic surgeries.Who was the first person to get plastic surgery? ›
Walter Yeo, the first person to receive plastic surgery, performed by Sir Harold Delf Gillies in 1917. The pictures of Walter's face before the surgery are blurry and hard to come by. In the Battle of Jutland he was recorded as having lost both his upper and lower eyelids.Who is famous plastic surgeon in India? ›
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By observing his teacher carefully and thinking about what he did.
How did Sushruta find the missing things? ›
Ans. Sushruta found the missing things by observing his teacher carefully and thinking about what he did.What were the three things that Sushruta discovered? ›
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Ancient India: The Birthplace of Plastic Surgery
Most historians agree that the first recorded account of reconstructive plastic surgery on the living is found in ancient Indian Sanskrit texts.
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Acharya Sushruta – Cataract surgery and Plastic surgery: Cataract surgery and plastic surgery were also first performed by the ancient physician Sushruta. He used a curved needle and removed the cataract by pushing the lens.Who was the first female surgeon? ›
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Sushrutha was also an excellent teacher. He told his pupils that one could become a good physician only if one knew both theory and practice. He advised his pupils to use carcasses and models for practice before surgery.What is the main focus of Sushruta study? ›
Sushruta attracted a number of disciples who were known as Saushrutas and required to study for six years before beginning hands-on surgical training. Before starting their training, they took a solemn oath to devote themselves to healing and to do no harm to others, often compared to Hippocratic Oath.
Who taught Ayurveda to Sushruta? ›
Sushruta is reverentially held in Hindu tradition to be a descendant of Dhanvantari, the mythical god of medicine, or as one who received the knowledge from a discourse from Dhanvantari in Varanasi.How many things were discovered by the Sushruta? ›
A History of Medicine in 50 Discoveries.What surgeries did Sushruta do? ›
Sushruta and Plastic Surgery
He brilliantly described reconstruction of the nose by a pedicled cheek flap in addition to repair of a cut earlobe, piercing of an earlobe, repair of a lacerated lip, skin grafting, classification of burns, wound care, and wound healing.
Solution. Shalihotra allowed one week to find the missing things.What was the first thing Sushruta that was missing? ›
Curious to find out what those three things were, Sushruta observed his teacher carefully for the next one week. Before operating the horse, Shalihotra observed every part of the horse. And then Sushruta found the first missing thing! 'A good veterinarian should have an eagle's eye.Who was Sushruta short answer? ›
Sushruta was an Indian Ayurvedic physician who is known as the 'Father of Indian Medicine' or 'Father of Surgery'. One of the world's earliest works on medicine and surgery was written by him. Shalihotra gained all his knowledge of Surgery from him. Sushruta only found the three things needed to operate the horse.What questions did Shalihotra ask Sushruta? ›
Solution. Shalihotra asked Sushruta what all he would need to perform surgery on a wonderful horse.Why Indian doctors are best? ›
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Ans. The method of plastic surgery is known as the Hindu method because a great Hindu Surgeon Sushruta described an operation for repairing a disfigured nose.Does India have good plastic surgery? ›
Plastic surgery in India is a good option for those looking for various correctional and reconstructive surgeries as the services offered by Indian hospitals and clinics are quite affordable as compared to the west. Worldwide, an increasing number of people are opting for plastic and cosmetic surgeries.Who is the most respected doctor in the world? ›
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Estimates place the Charaka-samhita in its present form as dating from the 1st century ce, although there were earlier versions. The Sushruta-samhita probably originated in the last centuries bce and had become fixed in its present form by the 7th century ce.Why is Sushruta called the father of surgery? ›
Sushruta's medical prowess is exhibited through his writings on rhinoplasty surgery, involving nasal reconstructions using skin from the patient's forehead or cheek, often for criminals punished with amputations.Who is the father of all surgery? ›
SurgeryWho is the god of surgery? ›
Machaon, a Greek heroic warrior and king, who ascended to a deity in the ancient world, is deemed as the Father of Surgery. In his name, battle and medicine were attached together and glorified. His divine origin granted prestige to the discipline of surgery, which was celebrated in his name by Homer.
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During the 6th Century BCE, an Indian physician named Sushruta – widely regarded in India as the 'father of surgery' – wrote one of the world's earliest works on medicine and surgery.Who is the famous surgeon in India? ›
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Dr. James McCune Smith graduates from the University of Glasgow, becoming the first African American to earn a medical degree.