Drilling holes in the head is modern medicine?

SkullDrill

Trepanning is a term for the surgical exposure of the dura mater, the outermost layer of the meninges that encapsulates the brain. The procedure dates back to 10,200 B.C.E, denoted by cave paintings, and was likely performed in neolithic times to treat mental illness.

Given that some of the theories once associated with trepanning include drilling holes in skulls to release evil spirits, it comes as a bit of a surprise that trepanning is a viable and not exceedingly rare modern medical treatment. Being said, the procedure is not routine and is one of those things you have to find other people in the know to get done.

TrepanationEngraving

The ITAG, the International Trepanation Advocacy Group, seems to be the centralized group behind the surgical procedure. They postulate:

The hypothesis here at ITAG has been that making a opening in the skull favorably alters movement of blood through the brain and improves brain functions which are more important than ever before in history to adapt to an ever more rapidly changing world.

They claim to have established relations with a medical facility, and from 2000-2004 have performed 15 trepanations without incident.

TrepanationSkull

Surprisingly there is fairly comprehensive physiological research on modern trepanation. Moskalenko et al. from the Sechenov Institute of Evolutionary Physiology and Biochemistry in St. Petersburg, Russia published in 2007 their findings of 11 trepanation patients using transcranial Doppler sonography, rheoencephalography, and observation during craniotomy.

They reported surprising results:

After craniotomy, the cross-flow of CSF between the cranial and spinal cavities decreased significantly, giving way to volumetric compensatory translocations of blood and CSF within the cranial cavity per se
during the cardiac cycle, which increased the intracranial utilization of the energy of the cardiac output and contributed to the outflow of venous blood from the cranium.

The conclusion: trepanation improves circulation and metabolism in the brain.

After evaluating their publication, I respect their methods, yet I’d still be more than hesitant to start drilling holes in my head. Apparently, self-trepanation is a thing. If you decide trepanation is worth your money, I’d rather get it done on a surgical table. Just my 2 cents.

Source 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

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