Plastic Surgery in the Sushruta Samhita?Dr. Vijay Daya (MD Anaesthesia) of Jaipur has described an experiment in plastic surgery. About 200 years ago, in 1792, there was a war between Tipu Sultan and the Marathas. In this war, four Maratha soldiers and a coach driver (Kavaasji) lost their hands and nose. A year later, a potter from Pune fixed new noses by surgery on Kavaasji and the soldiers. The potter was not just deft in making pottery with clay, he was also deft in joining parts of a human body and repairing parts by grafting the skin from some other part of the body. ?Repairing? a human body in this manner is, in modern science, called plastic surgery.
Two British doctors named Dr. Thomas Crasso and Dr. James Findlay witnessed the surgery giving Kavaasji a new nose in 1793 AD. They even drew pictures of the entire process and presented the report in the Madras Gazette. The same report was published in October 1794 by Gentleman Magazine, London. The report was as follows:?
?An artificial nose made of fine wax is placed instead of the nose that has been cut off. This wax is spread on the forehead of the person (who has to undergo plastic surgery). An outline is marked out and the layer of wax is removed. Then, the surgeon takes out the skin of the similar shape from the patient's forehead while it remains stuck to a small portion below the eyes. Because of this joint, the portion of the old nose that is left is divided into two. An incision is made behind it. Now, the skin from the forehead is brought down and stuck to the incision.
Terra Japonica (yellow kattha) is made into a dough after mixing it with water and spread over a piece of cloth. Five or six such pieces are placed one on top of the other and kept in the place of the surgery. After keeping this kind of a bandage for four days, a piece of cloth soaked in ghee is placed on it. After twenty days, the joined skin (from the centre of the eye)is removed and the new nose is given the proper shape. The patient has to keep lying down for the first five days after the surgery. On the tenth day, cylindrical pieces of cotton wool or soft cloth are placed inside the new nostrils to keep them open.?
In the report in Gentleman, it has been said further, ?This operation was always successful. The new nose used to stick permanently and would start looking like the old nose. Even the mark on the forehead, made by removing the skin, would vanish after sometime.?
This report created ripples in the European medical world. The surgeons from all over Europe had studied this technique thoroughly. Then, after understanding the fineness of the method, a 30-year-old surgeon, Dr, J.C.Carpew transplanted the nose of a man in 1814. This operation was also successful. This brought about a revolution in surgical treatment and it was given the name ?Plastic Surgery?. All surgeons, including Dr. Carpew unanimously agreed that plastic surgery was a gift from India.
There is no exaggeration in the above statement. Our ancestors knew the art of joining part that had been severed and repairing broken parts of the body. A detailed description of plastic surgery is given in the Sushruta Samhita. Even the entire process of how the nose was transplanted on the Maratha coachman Kavaasji, is given in he Sushruta Samhita. The potter who had performed the plastic surgery on the coachman had probably not read Sushruta's2500 year-old-book, but he must have inherited this art from his ancestors.
Sushruta Samhita also has a description of using the skin from the cheek to make up the nose. In today'smedical science, this is known as ?facial flap?. Sushruta has, in addition, described a method of facial flap for joining an ear. Sushruta has mentioned the use of special oils, honey or ghee besides the yellow kattha. The surgery to join a cut lip is also the same. Actually, Sushruta, in his book, has described 300 surgical operations. These include 42 surgical processes and 121 appliances.
At the special session of Parliament, organsied on the occasion of the golden jubilee of India's independence, Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi spoke about vaccination, one of the ancient scientific achievements of India. In his words-
?I want to place one more significant thing before you. It is said that Dr. Jenner discovered that vaccination in 1798. However, before this, Mr. Colt had told Dr. Oliver about the vaccination that was in use in Bengal. This has been mentioned in An Account of the Disease of Bengal; Calcutta dated February 10, 1731 as follows:
There are many cases of small pox in Bengal. For this, vaccination is given in the same way that Dr. Jenner had later done by making a vaccine out of the pus. In Bengal too, pus was collected from the blisters of small pox patients and stored for use the following year. The entire process has been given in detail in this journal. This is a book on medical journals and not an article from a newspaper and they have praised it wholeheartedly.
Another book entitled Operation of Inoculation of the Small Pox as Performed in Bengal:1731 gives these details. In reply to the question ?for how long has this process been going on?? He says that this has been going on for at least 150-200 years and when it was asked in Bengal as to who discovered it? The villagers of Bengal and Orissa said that Dhanwantari had shown them the path. Dhanwantari is believed to be the father of Ayurveda. He is the one who came out with the pot of nectar which had been churned out of the ocean. This is that pot of nectar which Dhanwantari took to each and every village of India and protected this country from small pox and other diseases. This is the pot of nectar and it has been distributed to the gods, as the people of this land are godlike.
(This book is available with Ocean Books (P) Ltd. 4/19 Asaf Ali Road, New Delhi-110 002)