Surgeries help save millions of lives worldwide every year, and we are thankful for them. However, there are cases where they go terribly wrong. For instance, in 2007, a 73-year-old man suffered “anesthesia awareness” while undergoing surgery. Apparently, an anesthesiologist and nurse anesthetist forgot to administer him with anesthesia but sent him to sleep. For 16 minutes, the patient could feel excruciating pain but couldn’t alert the doctors because he was paralyzed. Even though he survived the ordeal, the man later committed suicide. Keep reading to find out more mind-blowing facts about surgeries.

1. President John Adam’s Daughter Underwent a Gory Surgery to Cure Her Breast Cancer

Abigail Adams Smith was the daughter of the second president of the United States, John Adams. While that was a privilege in its own right, what she went through as part of her breast cancer treatment wasn’t.

On October 8, 1811, Dr. John Warren operated on her with only a large fork, two sharp prongs, and a wooden-handled razor. She wasn’t administered with any anesthesia whatsoever and had to be belted on a reclining chair. Abigail Smith succumbed to the disease two years after the gruesome operation.

2. The First Volunteer for a Head Transplant Pulled Out Because He Had Just Married

Surgeons around the world have been toying with the idea of performing human head transplants. In 2018, two surgeons in China were at advanced stages. They even had the first volunteer, Valery Spiridonov, a 33-year-old Russian Computer scientist. Dubbed project HEAVEN or head anastomosis, the surgery was on course until Spiridonov pulled out. He said he was unable to leave his new wife and kid for the duration that the procedure would take.

3. A Florida Woman Once Received a “Tooth-in-Eye Surgery” to Cure Her Blindness

In 2009, a team of surgeons from the University Of Miami Miller School Of Medicine announced that they had restored a woman’s vision using her tooth. Scientifically known as modified osteo-odonto-keratoprosthesis (MOOKP), the doctors used the patient’s tooth as a platform to put the optical cylinder into the eye.

4. There Is A Fake Surgical Procedure Known As Placebo Surgery

Sometimes referred to as sham surgery, placebo surgery is a fake surgical procedure conducted to avoid the actual therapeutic steps. Needless as it may sound, the procedure is essential in scientific control.

It often leaves out the specific treatment effect that, in most cases, the patient doesn’t really need while giving the impression that they have been operated on. Placebo surgery is critical for neutralizing biases brought about by the placebo effect.

5. UK Surgeons Once Operated on an Unborn Baby

man wearing head microscope

Surgeons once operated on an unborn child suffering from spina bifida – a condition where the spine and spinal cord don’t develop properly in the womb. Scientifically known as a utero surgery, the historical operation took only four hours. In 2019, the baby was born healthy.

With the massive technological advancement that we now have, such surgeries no longer sound like crazy ideas. If anything, doctors recently performed brain surgery on an unborn baby, and she’s thriving.

6. Surgeons Sometime Forget Surgical Instruments Inside the Patients’ Bodies

Unfortunately, one of the downsides of undergoing a major operation is that there is a chance that surgeons can forget their surgical instruments inside a patient’s body. For instance, a 13-inch retractor was left inside a patient’s body for a month. Victims can often sue for medical practice; it is one of the most common.

7. There Is a Surgical Procedure That Allows Patients to Have Two Hearts

red and yellow bird figurine

Formally known as a heterotopic heart transplant, there is a surgical procedure that gives a patient two hearts working alongside each other. Although the operation is not yet widespread, medics worldwide are excited about its prospects.

8. Surgeries Were Done Without Anesthesia in the Past

As hard as it may be to imagine, surgeries were done without any anesthesia for the overwhelming majority of human history. Patients had to contend with alcohol or medicinal plants, which did very little to numb their pain.

Interestingly, anesthesia remained unpopular even after the breakthrough was made. At the time, people were hard-wired to think surgical procedures must hurt, with some considering anesthesia a “satanic influence.”

9. Doctors Once Operated on a Woman Using a Coat Hanger and Silverware

As passengers were traveling from Hong Kong to London, a woman suffered a sudden heart attack, necessitating an emergency procedure. Luckily, there were doctors on board the flight; two performed surgery on her using silverware and a coat hanger with cognac as the sterilizer. Apparently, the plane couldn’t make an emergency landing because the change in air pressure could kill the patient.

10. Some Patients Wake Up During Surgeries

Usually, before surgery, doctors typically give the patient something for the pain (anesthesia) and another for sleeping. However, statistics show that 1 in 1,000 patients is likely to wake up before the operation is complete. Although most of these cases usually happen at the beginning or near the end of the operations, some occur in the middle, too. About half of the patients who wake up way before time usually develop PTSD and depression from their horrific experiences.

11. Trepanation Is One of The Earliest Forms of Surgeries

Surgeries have been popular since the prehistoric era and have evolved with time. Trepanation is one of the earliest forms of surgery. It involved boring a hole in the patient’s skull and exposing the dura matter to treat specific health issues, especially those related to intracranial pressure.

12. The Longest Surgery Took 103 Hours

Interestingly, the record for the longest surgery was set in 2001. A team of 20 doctors performed the 103-hour-long surgery at the Singapore General Hospital in Singapore. The mission was to separate a pair of conjoined twins, Ganga and Jamuna Shrestha – they were successful.

13. The Word “Surgery” Was Derived from the Greek Term “Cheirourgen”

The word “surgery” comes from the Middle English surgerie, Old French’s surgerie. The French adopted the word from the Latin chirurgia, derived from the Greek cheirourgen. As such, surgery translates to “to work with hand.”

14. Sushrutha, An Indian Physician, Is Considered “The Father of Surgery”

Sushrutha, an Indian physician who lived somewhere between 1000 and 800 BC, is widely considered “the father of surgery.” Through his therapeutic strategies, pathophysiology, and anatomy teachings, he singlehandedly helped develop medicine in ancient India. He was famous for his mastery of nasal reconstruction techniques and massively inspired the plastic surgery industry.

15. Heart Surgeries Are the Most Popular

Regarding major surgeries, heart procedures are the most common in the United States. They include cardiac catheterizations, balloon angioplasty of coronary artery, and coronary artery bypass grafts. Obstetrics & gynecology and the specialty of orthopedics surgical procedures follow closely in the second and third positions, respectively.

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Last Update: January 25, 2024