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Arch Hellen Med, 23(5), September-October 2006, 536-540


Oribasius and Paul of Aegina: Two pioneers of plastic surgery in Byzantium

Department of the History of Medicine, Medical School, University of Athens, Athens, Greece

The aim of this study is to present the scientific work of Byzantine doctors in order to evaluate their knowledge and experience in performing reconstructive procedures. Information was collected through secondary data, such as the original texts of the Byzantine physicians and international bibliographic sources. Oribasius was an eminent Byzantine physician who lived in the 4th century and his greatest contribution to medicine was his anthology of all the previous and contemporary important medical works, entitled "Synagogue Medicae". This complete medical encyclopedia of his era consisted of more than 70 volumes. A significant part of this work has been lost, but the existing chapters allow us to understand and admire the knowledge of ancient medicine. Chapters 25 and 26 of the original 45th book deal with the reconstruction of facial defects. Reconstructive procedures for defects of the eyelids, forehead, cheeks, nose and ears are described in detail. Advancement flaps are recommended for the reconstruction of facial defects, and suggestions are made about debridement, flap design and thickness of flaps. Paul of Aegina was the most important Byzantine doctor in the 7th century and in chapter 26 of his 6th book he describes the surgical technique used by his colleagues in order to reconstruct defects of the ears and the lips. Én conclusion, in the texts of two Byzantine doctors we traced the first significant descriptions of plastic and reconstructive procedures. Undoubtedly, Greek, Roman and Byzantine surgeons had the knowledge and experience to be able to perform several types of reconstructive operations in the face. This knowledge was transmitted to the Arabs and then to Western Europe in the 15th century, and became part of the foundation for modern plastic surgery.

Key words: Byzantium, Oribasius, Paul of Aegina, Plastic and reconstructive surgery.

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