JISHIM 2003, 1
Al-Zahrawi (Albucasis) -ALight In The Dark Middle Ages In Europe
"Without doubt Albucasis was the chief of all surgeons." Pietro Argallata
Dr. Sharif Kaf Al-GHAZAL, MD, MS, RCS (Plast. Cert.), DM (Plast)*
* Plastic, Reconstructive & Hand Surgeon Bradford, England
Abu al-Qasim Khalaf bin Abbas Al-Zahrawi
(A.D. 936-1013), known to the West by his Latinname
, was born in Al Zahraa, six milesnorthwest of Cordoba in Andalusia. He was simplythe greatest Muslim surgeon, with European surgeonsof his time coming to regard him as a greater author-ity than even Galen, the ancient world's acknowl-edged master. It is clear from
life his-tory and from his writings that he devoted his entirelife and genius to the advancement of medicine as a whole and surgery in particular.What is known about
is contained inhis only written work:
At-Tasrif liman 'Ajiza 'an at-Ta'lif
(The Method of Medicine).
is a medical encyclopaedia compendium of 30 volumescompiled from medical data that
accu-mulated in a medical career that spanned five decadesof teaching and medical practice. He apparently trav-elled very little but had wide experience in treatingaccident victims and war casualties.The last and largest volume of
, "OnSurgery," was nothing less than the greatest achieve-ment of medieval surgery. It was the first independ-ent surgical treatise ever written in detail. It includedmany pictures of surgical instruments, most inventedby
himself, and explanations of theiruse.
was the first medical author to pro-vide illustrations of instruments used in surgery.There are approximately 200 such drawings rangingfrom a tongue depressor and a tooth extractor to a catheter and an elaborate obstetric device.The variety of operations covered is amazing. Inthis treatise
discussed bloodletting, mid-wifery and obstetrics, the treatment of wounds, theextraction of arrows and the setting of bones in simpleand compound fractures. He also promoted the use of antiseptics in wounds and skin injuries; devised suturesfrom animal intestines, silk, wool and other substances.He described the exposure and division of the tempo-ral artery to relieve certain types of headaches, diver-sion of urine into the rectum, reduction mammoplastyfor excessively large breasts and the extraction of cataracts. He wrote extensively about injuries to bonesand joints, even mentioning fractures of the nasalbones and of the vertebrae, in fact
for reducing a dislocated shoulder was described in
At-Tasrif long before Kocherwas born !Al-Zahrawi
outlined the use of caustics in sur-gery, fully described tonsillectomy, tracheotomy andcraniotomy operations which he had performed on a dead foetus.He explained how to use a hook to extract a polypfrom the nose, how to use a bulb syringe he hadinvented for giving enemas to children and how touse a metallic bladder syringe and speculum toextract bladder stones.
was the first to describe the so-called
in obstetrics; the first to depictdental arches, tongue depressors and lead catheters andthe first to describe clearly the hereditary circumstancessurrounding haemophilia. He also described ligaturingof blood vessels long before
In this article, Al-Zahrawis life and hisworks are stressed and his place in the Islamic surgery is pointed out. Moreover, his booksimportance is examinedand some samples are given from these books.
Al-Zahrawi, History of Medicine, Islamic Medicine