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A Brief History of Surgical Instruments
Surgical instruments have been manufactured since the dawn of pre-history. Rough trephines for performing round craniotomies were discovered in neolithic sites in many places. It is believed that they were used by shamans to release evil spirits and alleviate headaches and head traumas caused by war-inflicted wounds.
Surgeons and physicians in India used sophisticated surgical instruments since ancient times. Sushruta (circa 500 BC) was probably the most important surgeon in ancient history, often known as the "father of surgery". In his text Sushruta Samhita he described over 120 surgical instruments, 300 surgical procedures and classified human surgery in 8 categories.
In Antiquity, surgeons and physicians in Greece and Rome developed many ingenious instruments manufactured from bronze, iron and silver, such as scalpels, lancets, curettes, tweezers, speculae, trephines, forceps, probes, dilators, tubes, surgical knifes, etc. They are still very well preserved in several medical museums around the world. Most of these instruments continued to be used in Medieval times, albeit with a better manufacturing technique.
In the Renaissance and post-Renaissance era, new instruments were again invented and designed, in order to accompany the increased audacity of surgeons. Amputation sets originated in this period, due to the increased severity of war-inflicted wounds by shot, grapnel and cannon.
However, it was only with the discovery of anesthesia and surgical asepsis that new surgical instruments were invented to allow the penetration of the inner sanctum, or the previously forbidden body cavities, namely the skull, the thorax and the abdomen. A veritable explosion of new tools occurred with the hundreds of new surgical procedures which were developed in the 19th century and first decades of the 20th century. New materiais, such as stainless steel, chrome, titanium and vanadium were available for the manufacturing of these instruments. Precision instruments for microsurgery in neurosurgery, ophthalmology and otology were possible and, in the second half of the 20th century, energy-based instruments were first developed, such as electrocauteries, ultrasound and electric scalpels, surgical tools for endoscopic surgery, and finally, surgical robots