Radical prostatectomy: a brief historical note

You may be surprised to learn that radical prostatectomy is not a modern procedure. However, you may be shocked to learn just how long ago the first such operation was performed.

According to the Sushruta Samhita, the first radical prostatectomy was carried out between about 600 and 500 BC by a physician called Sushruta, who is widely regarded as the “father of surgery,” just as Hippocrates is regarded as the “father of medicine.” We do not have a detailed result of the outcome, but it is reasonable to believe that Sushutra carried out this operation more than once.

Sushruta practised in Northern India near the modern city of Varanasi (more commonly known as Benares) on the banks of the river Ganges or Ganga. The Sushruta Samhita (which can be translated as the “Compendium of Sushruta”) is about 1,700 pages long when translated into English and contains descriptions of some 300 surgical procedures and over 120 surgical instruments.

Sushrutra is also widely regarded as the “father of plastic surgery.” The procedure now known as “forehead flap rhinoplasty” is described in detail in the Sushuta Samhita.  In this procedure, a flap of skin from the forehead is used to reconstruct a disfigured nose, and the procedure is practiced almost unchanged in technique to this day.

Content on this page last reviewed and updated August 29, 2010.

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