Musket to a brain surgeon

Phineas Gage is famous for having an iron bar being blown through his frontal lobes. Although his case is usually described as the first of its kind, this month’s edition of The Psychologist has a surprising article on many lesser known cases from the 1800s, usually due to mishaps with early firearms.

The piece is packed with amazing case vignettes of people who have suffered serious frontal lobe injury but were described as relatively unaffected.

This is one of the many striking examples:

In 1827 came a report by a Dr Rogers in the Medico-Chirurgical Transactions, where a young man received a frontal impact, again from a breech explosion. It was not until another three weeks, when the soldier, ‘discovered a piece of iron lodged within the head in the bottom of the wound from which a considerable quantity of bone had come away… it proved to be the breech pin of the gun three inches in length and three ounces in weight’. Four months later he was ‘perfectly cured’. Another case, here, was of an exploding breech pin penetrating 1½ inches into the brain, making a hole ¾ inch in diameter, resulting in an ‘escape of cerebral substance’. But ‘no severe symptoms occurred, and recovery took place in less than 24 days’.


Link to The Psychologist article ‘Blasts from the past’.

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