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Brain injury patients’ lives are being saved thanks to ancient Egyptian operation

Brain injury patients’ lives are saved thanks to ancient Egyptian-style operation where a hole is drilled into their skull to reduce swelling

  • Op that dates from days of the pharaohs could save thousands who suffer brain injuries every year
  • It involves making a hole in skull to ease swelling and pressure on the brain – in a similar procedure to one used by ancient Egyptians as a religious ritual
  • Study has found patients who have the surgery – decompressive craniectomy – are a fifth more likely to survive than those given standard medication

An operation that dates from the days of the pharaohs could save thousands who suffer brain injuries every year.

It involves making a hole in the skull to ease swelling and pressure on the brain – in a similar procedure to one used by ancient Egyptians as a religious ritual.

A new study has found that patients who have the surgery, called a decompressive craniectomy, are a fifth more likely to survive than those given standard medication.

Professor Peter Hutchinson, a consultant neurosurgeon at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, who led on the study, said: ‘Without any doubt, the operation can save lives.’

An operation that dates from the days of the pharaohs could save thousands who suffer brain injuries every year. It involves making a hole in the skull to ease swelling and pressure on the brain – in a similar procedure to one used by ancient Egyptians as a religious ritual

Some 160,000 Britons are admitted to hospital each year with brain injuries, often caused by traffic collisions and falls.

When the brain is injured, fluid can collect inside the skull, causing pressure that can restrict the blood supply. Eventually brain cells begin to die, causing memory loss, paralysis and even death.

Patients are usually treated with drugs, but if these don’t work, doctors may opt for a procedure called a ventriculostomy, in which a tube is inserted through a hole made in the skull to drain excess fluid.

Some 160,000 Britons are admitted to hospital each year with brain injuries, often caused by traffic collisions and falls

Some 160,000 Britons are admitted to hospital each year with brain injuries, often caused by traffic collisions and falls

In a craniectomy, a larger 5in hole is made in the back of the skull and part of the membrane surrounding the brain is removed, instantly reducing pressure. 

The skin is then stitched back over the hole. Once the injury has healed, the hole in the skull is covered with a titanium plate.

Previous research suggested that decompressive craniectomy carries a high risk of leaving patients disabled, but in a new study of 408 patients, published in the journal JAMA Neurology, patients who underwent craniectomy were 21 per cent more likely to survive for two years than those treated with drugs, and were more likely to make a good recovery.

Russell Ramplin, 42, from Ipswich, had a craniectomy in 2020 after a motorbike crash. He has since made a near full recovery and earlier this year he had the missing section of his skull replaced with a titanium plate at Addenbrooke’s.

He says: ‘I’m back on my feet again. I’ve got a job, a place to live and I’ve got no pain.

‘It saved my life. I’m sure it could save others.’

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Read more at DailyMail.co.uk