The Role of Albucasis in Evolution of the History of Otorhinolaryngology
Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Aleppo University, Iraq
Submission: September 29, 2016; Published: December 15, 2016
*Corresponding author: Faisal Dibsi, Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Aleppo University, Syria, Aleppo City. Al Shahba Al Jadideh Quarter Al Sanober Street No 92, Iraq, Tel:963212633022;+963944488980; Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
How to cite this article: Faisal D. The Role of Albucasis in Evolution of the History of Otorhinolaryngology. Glob J Oto 2016; 2(4): 555593. DOI: 10.19080/GJO.2016.02.555593
“ALBUCASIS (936-1013 AD) author the first rational, complete, and illustrated treatises of surgery. The Surgery is the last of thirty treatises comprising his Kitab al-Tasrif li-man ajiza an al-Taʹalif, the excellent surgical textbook with illustration of surgical instruments in the Middle Ages. Most of the content was a repetition of the earlier contributions of Paul Aegina (7th Century) with modifications. This textbook was translated into Latin by Gerard of Cremona (12th Century) and greatly influenced Europe as Eastern Islamic countries. He was a working doctor and practical surgeon. This surgical textbook describes many operative procedures, manipulations and instruments in Otorhinolaryngology, explained the suture of new and old wounds in the Nose, Lip, and Ear. In the Ear Diseases include removing foreign bodies, performing operations for obstruction of the ear because of congenital aural atresia, scars and stenosis after injuries, polyps and granulations, extraction a creatures. Forward the Nose Diseases treatment fractures, nasal fistula, nasal polyps and tumors.
About mouth diseases explained extraction of fibroma on the lip, operation of the tongue-tie’s division, removal of tumors under the tongue, in the throat diseases, definition of Tonsils indication, contra indications, technique of tonsillectomy and its instruments. Excision of the throat’s tumors, removal of Uvula’s tumor that is called ‘UVA’, extraction of foreign bodies from the throat and esophagus, removal of leech sticking in the throat. In laryngeal diseases, he describes operation Tracheostomy which called it Laryngotomy, used cauterization to stop bleeding after wide excision of the cancer, and prophylactic a recurrence. Albucasis saved the surgery in the middle ages. Sought to revive the art of surgery and was the one of the founders of the renascence surgery can be ranked Albucasis with Hippocrates and Galen.
Keywords: History of Otolaryngology; History of Medicine; Albucasis
“ALBUCASIS” (936-1013 AD) is probably the commonest of the many forms into which medieval Europe distorted the name of the Arab surgeon Abul-Qasim Khalaf ibn “Abbas al-Zahrawi”, born in Al¬zahra, the royal city five miles west of Cordova, and practiced in Cordova [1-5] (Figures 1 & 2).
The surgery is the last of the thirty treatises comprising his kitab al-Tasrif li-man ajiza an al-Taʹalif, the excellent surgical textbook, in the Middle Ages, which reported new techniques of surgical treatments, details first rational, complete and illustrated treatises of surgery, greatly influenced Europe
and the East of Islamic countries. Most of the content was a
repetition with modification of the earlier contributions of Paul
of Aegina (7th-century Byzantine Greek physician best known for
writing the medical encyclopedia Medical Compendium in Seven
Books). Albucasis created new manipulations, operations and
instruments, careful descriptions and pragmatic advice revealed
a caution, ethical, and thoughtful approach. This textbook was
translated into Latin at Toledo, kingdom of Castile (Spain), by
Italian translator Gerard of Cremona (c. 1114-1187), and into
English by Orientalists M. S. Spink and G. L. Lewis and edited in
English with Arabic text in 1973 (Figures 3-5) [1,4,6,7].
Albucasis sought to revive the art of surgery. He felt that
‘skilled practitioners of operative surgery were totally lacked in
our land and time. Albucasis was a working doctor, and practical
surgeon. He drew both on the writings of his predecessors and
on his own experience. He described many operative procedures
and instruments, which do not appear in exact classical writings.
The book Le ‘‘Grande Chirurgie’’ of Guy de Chauliac the most famous surgeon and teacher of the 14th century enclose the
influence of Arabic authors even Albucasis (Figure 6).
i. Technique: This procedure is based on illuminating
the ear by turning it toward the sun, and getting the foreign
body out with a fine pair of tweezers shapes (Figure 7) [1,4].
Extraction can be done also using different instruments as
Using a fine blunt hook slightly curved, or aspiration
with bronze tube introducing the end of the tube well into
the external meatus of the ear, and filling in round with
wax softened with oil, so that there may be no outlet saves
through the tube.
Using turpentine resin or bird-lierne, a very little,
twisting some compact cotton wool on the end of a probe
and pacing this on the tip. Then introducing it gently into
the ear after drying out all the moisture. If such treatment
is unavailing, then it is necessary to do quickly an operation
before an abscess or spasm super venes. This operation is
done by cutting the patient’s cephalic vein and blood drawn,
in proportion to his strength, seating the patient in front of
doctor and turn his ear upwards, making a small incision at
the lobule of the ear in the depression there (the incision should have a crescent shape) until reaching, the stone and
extract it out of the ear with used instrument. Afterwards,
immediately sewing up the incision and dressing it till
If the foreign body is one of those grains (that grow or
swell) and could not be removed or extracted by the already
mentioned means, then it should be cut into several pieces
with a fine narrow scalpel (Figure 8).
Then these cut pieces of the grain can be extracted by using
a blunt hook or fine-headed tweezers, and doing suction after
being moist by vaporizing the ear. As for water getting into the
ear, some methods of manipulations used to suck it out with a
cannula as described for a stone [1,4].
i. Technique: This technique is based on examining the
ear in the sunlight. If the creature (e.g. worm) is able to be seen,
it can be extracted it by using tweezers of fine hooks. If it is not
able to be seen, aspirate it with a cannula narrow in its lower
part, broad above, and introduce the narrow part into the ear,
as far as the patient can bear it. If they do not come out, plug
all-round the cannula with wax. If nothing will bring them out,
employ the instillations of oils or drugs should be done with a
metal bearing from silver or bronze, narrow at its lower end,
with a small perforation, wide at its upper part (Figure 9).
Drops instillation into the ear should be slightly warmed on fire,
making sure while dropping into the ear are neither hot nor cold
i. Definition and Etiology: Congenital aural atresia, scar
and stenosis after injury, or polyps and granulation.
ii. Technique of Operation and Instrument: Illumination by sunlight and opening surgically with a fin scalpel
Extremity is slightly broad, with a sharp blend, while the
rest-of the scalpel should be smooth on both sides. But when
obstruction is caused by polyps, it is caught with a fine hook and
cut it with the utmost gentleness.
After operation, it is recommended to put in a plug into the
meatus with Egyptian ointment for some days. Bleeding caused
by the operation is treated by using a sponge or piece of material
dipped into cold water and put it on the ear or dropping some
medicine into it [1,4].
i. Surgical Anatomy: The nose consists of two bones.
Only the upper portion of the nose is exposed to get broken
since the lower portion is cartilaginous, which is unbreakable
but it may be get twisted or flattened after trauma.
ii. Technique: If one of the two nasal bones get broken
you should pass your little finger into the nostril and
straighten out the fracture from inside, with index and
thumb outside, until you return the nose to its natural shape
gently. If the fracture happens in the upper part of the nose
and finger could not reach it, then it should be evened by
means of a probe with some thickness to it. If the break is
on both sides, follow the same course. This procedure must
be done immediately after the fraction incident (on the first
day if possible), but if not possible, procedure can be done
on the seventh or tenth day when the effusion has subsided.
Then, introduce into the nasal foramen a linen pad, in case of
unilateral fracture, or two pads in case of bilateral fracture.
These pads should be thick enough to fill the nasal foramen,
and then leave the pads in until the bone becomes firm and
the cartilage gets harden. Sometimes, stems of goose-quills
can be used (instead of pads) into the nose after rounding the
wound with a piece of soft cloth. This can make a stronger
support for the fracture of the nose without hindering the
breath of the patient. When the nasal bones are broken into
small pieces or crushed, you should cut down upon them,
remove them with a suitable instrument, and then suture the
incision and dress it.
i. Technique: Cut down on the tumor and it’s ripening
and let it all out. The humidity or pus therein, till reach the
bone, and scrape it with next instrument (Figure 11).
ii. Instrument: This instrument is called ‘‘rough head’’,
which is made of Indian iron. Its head is rounded like an
engraved button, while the end is engraved as a rasp. The
way of using this instrument is by placing it on the site
of diseased bone and spinning it between fingers while
pressing softly several times with hand till making sure that
all the diseased bone has been scraped away and dressed it
i. Differential Diagnosis: He differs soft polyps, and
stony hard pale in color cancer oust growth.
ii. Technique of Operation: The surgeon seating facing
the patient, and dilating his nose to introduce a hook into
these polyps in order to draw them out, then amputating
what can be held with a fine scalpel shaped on one side until
nothing of them remains. If still there a malignant swelling,
then speedily cautery is used till the bleeding stops and all
the polyps are gone. Then dropping into the nose, some
vinegar mixed with water, or wine. If the fluid flows freely
from the nose into the throat, it means that the patient is
cured. But if the fluid does not pass through it as it should
be, that means there is a polyp within the upper part of
the ethmoide bone where the instrument could not reach
the area to make incision. In such case, using linen rather
thick by tie knots in it with a space of a finger’s width or
less between each pair knots, and let the patient try to get
one end of the thread into his nose with a probe or anything
he can. After making it into the form of a button, and let
him makes a full inspiration till it reaches the cartilage and
comes out through the throat. Then, holding together the
two ends of the thread; one is coming out through the mouth
and the other remaining in the nose. Then, sawing the polyps
by means of the knots in the thread, continue doing this till
making sure that the growth has been cut off by the knotted
thread. At last, taking out the thread, wiping away the blood,
and putting into the nose a plug dipped in Egyptian ointment
i. Symptoms and Signs: Frequently growth on the end of
the nose and increase daily till they disfigure the nose.
ii. Technique of Operation: They should be cut as soon
as they appear. They should be totally eradicated and apply
to the place cauterization, either actual or by caustic. But if
excision of them has been overlooked tell they have grown
big, then examine, and if the growth is stone-like, hard, and
pale in color, and with little sensation, do not interfere with
it with an instrument, for it is a cancerous tumor. If the tumor
is soft to the touch, not pale colored, and can be wholly
removed, then purge the patient, and cut it off fearlessly, and
treat the place till healed.
i. Prognosis: Treatment rarely does a good result, except
in a few cases when the wound is fresh and bleeding.
ii. Technique: Bring the edge of the wound together
with a suture, and dress them till they are healed. If the
discontinuity has separated the edges, and both edges
have healed, it is necessary to scrape both edges on the
external skin till they bleed, and bring the edges together.
with a suture, dress it for two or three days, then take dress
off, change the medicine, let the sutures come away of
themselves, and afterward dress with ointment till healed.
The manner of suturing is to close the discontinuity, either
with a needle, or with a thread [1,4].
i. Signs, Symptoms and Etiology: This ligament is
an impediment to speech, and occurs under the tongue is
congenital, or it may be accidental, owing to scarring from
ii. Technique of Operation: The operation for it is to
open the patient’s mouth, having his head in lap, and lift his
tongue, then cut that sinew - like ligament transversely , till
the tongue is feed from its hold . If it is hard and nodular,
arising from scaring after an injury, catch it with a hook and
slit it transversely until the ligament is severed and the knots
undone. Beware of making the incision deeply into the flesh,
or you may cut an artery there, and hemorrhage may occur.
In case of bleeding, burn the spot with a lenticular cautery
of suitable size.
i. Signs and Symptoms: Swellings occurs under the
tongue resembling a small frog, which hinders the natural
movements of the tongue. Sometimes grows so as even to fill
ii. Technique of Operation: The technique of this
operation is mainly based on opening the patient’s mouth
in the full light of the sun and inspecting the tumor. If the
diagnosis tells that the tumor has dark or black color, hard
touch, and no sensation, that means cancer. When this tumor
is pale and has fluid in it, a hook is used in order to separate
the tumor completely [1,4].
i. Indications: Tonsils are pale colored, round, with a
ii. Contra Indications: Acute inflammation of the tonsils,
paratonsillar abscess that is a red color with a thick root, and
cancer of the tonsils which is a hard tumor, dark and devoid
of sensation, for off a hemorrhage.
iii. Technique and instruments: Patient should be sitting
down in the full light of the sun, his head in surgeon’s lap,
open his mouth and assistant presses down the tongue with
tongue depressor made from bronze or silver like a knife
Then take a hook and fix it in one tonsil and pull it forward
as far as it will go, but be careful to not pull away with it any of
the mucosa, then cut it by guillotine, which looks like a scissors
except that its endings are curved, where the beak of each is
meeting the other. It is very sharp and should be made of Indian
iron or Damascene steel (Figures 15 & 16). If you do not have
this kind of instrument, cut it with a scalpel that is sharp in one
side, and on the other side is quite blunt (Figure 17) [4,8].
i. Definition: It is often sticks in the throat a bone or fish
-bone or something else.
ii. Technique: after depressing the tongue with the
instrument in the full light of the sun to see what has been
stuck in the throat. If it was obvious to the eye you should
remove whatever can be seen and comes into view, but when
it is not visible, an instrument made of lead as shown in
(Figure 18) should be used, it is little thicker than the probe,
with a crook at its extremity. The patient himself should
introduce it gently into his own throat. He should raise the
head backwards and take care not to touch the larynx and
let cough be aroused. Then, remove the bone or sharp body.
It can also be introduced by the doctor’s hand (although it is
better if the patient himself introduce it, since he knows the
site of the obstruction) and push it down and then draw up
his hand with the instrument, all this according to the way it
presents itself to him, till it is removed [4,8].
VI. Removal of Leech sticking in the Throat: Inspect
the patient’s throat in full sunlight, after opening the mouth and
depressing the tongue with the instruments described (Figure
14), and pull it out at once with a small hook, or a fine pair of
resembles forceps as shown in (Figures 19 & 20). Except that it
has this bend for entry into the throat, and the two extremities
are sharper like a bird’s bill with the roughness of a file.
When they hold anything, they do not let it go. There
is another instrument with it, which is used to depress the
tongue. It is made of a wide range of iron. The size of it is to
fit into the mouth and above the tongue. It is inserted into the
mouth standing on its side, while the mouth stays opened. This
instrument used as a mouth-gag and tongue depressor (Figure
i. Indication: Dyspnea due to an abscess in the mouth,
throat or tonsil, and when there is no disease in the trachea or bronchi itself. Then it must employ tracheostomy to avoid
the mischief of suffocation.
ii. Technique of operation: Trachea should incise under
the third or fourth ring with a small incision transversely
between two rings, so that the incision may be through
the membrane, not the cartilage, this spot is suitable for
incision. Therefore, it is deficient in flesh, and there are no
blood-vessels there. If the practitioner is nervous, he must
stretch the skin of the throat, with a hook, then cut down
through the skin till he reaches the trachea, and avoid blood
vessels if he sees any, then let him incise the membrane. He
can be certain of having opened the trachea by the emission
of phlegm, when it is pierced, and by the loss of the voice
(maybe he means to cut the Larynx). Then leave the wound
open for some while. When the danger of suffocation is
passed, bring the two lips of the wound together by the skin,
which all must be sutured, without the cartilage.
The surgeon Albucasis made a big evolutionon surgery of
medieval and renascence of European countries. His book the
surgery, is the first rational, complete, and illustrated treatment
of its subject, which revive the art of surgery as thought by «the
Ancients». The content of which term ranges from Hippocrates
to Paul of Aegina, whose life times were separated by some
eleven hundred years. He was indebted to the ancients, but the
numerous of Otorhinolaryngological operations and instruments
records was a personal observation interspersed throughout the
work. He described many operative procedures and instruments
which do not appear in extant classical writings and which may
therefore be regarded as his own practice. It is evident that the
author was a working doctor and practical surgeon. Like Paulus
Aegineta, his principal source, he draws both on the writings of
his predecessors and on his own experience. Albucasis save the
surgery in the middle ages with his modifications. He sought to
revive the art of surgery and was the one of the founders of the
renascence surgery [1,2,4,9-11].
Albucasis is an author of the first rational,complete,
excellent and illustrated book of surgery;
He recommended a many new Otolaryngological
instruments: Tonsil guillotine, scalpel for tonsillectomy,
forceps for throat’s leech, tongue depressors and tongue
depressors-mouth gag, flexible instrument for removal the
foreign bodies from the esophagus.
Described many new operative procedures in
Used cauterization to stop bleeding after wide excision
of the cancer, and prophylactic a recurrence.
Saved the surgery in the middle ages with his
Sought to revive the art of surgery and was the one of
the founders of the renascence surgery.
Can be ranked Albucasis with Hippocrates and Galen.