17th century brain surgery, digitally recreated

A reader of neuroscience blog Retrospectacle wrote in to say they’d created a video simulation of how a 17th century brain surgery tool would work, and it’s a wonderfully vivid, if not somewhat gruesome, animation of the tool in action.

The tool was the elevatorium biploidum and was described by the pioneering Dutch surgeon Cornelius Solingen in his book Manuale Operatien der Chirurgie.

Boerhaave Museum describes the use of the tool:

Bullets from seventeenth-century guns had slightly less velocity than the bullets of today. The damage they caused, particularly if you were hit in the head, was consequently sometimes less serious than might have been expected. Not every bullet penetrated the skull, but they often left a sizeable dent. Under the dent there might be haemorrhaging, because of the rupturing of local blood vessel as a result of the impact. In order to treat that bleeding and the associated pressure on the brain the Hague surgeon Cornelis Solingen (1641-1687) has developed a sort of ‘corkscrew’, with which you could raise the dented cranium again.

The tool obviously had (if you’ll excuse the pun) quite an impact at the time as it is featured on the front page of the museum’s website. Indeed, similar surgical techniques are still in use today.

Link to video animation of the elevatorium biploidum.
Link to Retrospectacle post.
Link to Boerhaave Museum page on the tool.

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