10 Strangest Surgical Procedures

The present compilation excludes surgical procedures that have become obsolete or are in the process of being phased out. Cosmetic surgical procedures have also been kept out of the list.

Hemispherectomy

Strange as it may seem, this surgical procedure aims to disable an entire half or hemisphere of the brain and finds application in the treatment of a range of intractable seizure disorders, particularly in those cases where the source of the epilepsy is centered in a broad region of a single hemisphere. However, all patients who have undergone this form of treatment suffer from some form of physical debilitations that can be either partial or full paralysis on one side of the body, which is the opposite side of the brain hemisphere that is removed. This also means it is performed on only those cases where medication or other procedures have proved to be largely ineffective. Patients who undergo this surgery generally have neurons from the remaining hemisphere form new neural connections in order to take over the tasks that otherwise would have been performed by the disabled hemisphere. The first recorded instance of this surgery having being attempted on a human was in 1923 by Walter Dandy.

Hemicorporectomy

This is a surgical procedure in which the entire lower half of the body from above the pelvis is amputated, which includes the sexual organs, anus, rectum, legs, pelvis bones, and urinary system. Also known as translumbar amputation or TA, this is a draconian surgical procedure that is performed only in extreme cases such as in case of diseases like osteomyelitis, tumors, severe traumas and intractable decubiti in, or around, the pelvis, which otherwise may have fatal consequences. Only a small number of such surgeries have actually been performed with the general procedure followed is to conduct the surgery in two stages – the first stage being the discontinuation of the waste functions in colostomy (rectum) and ileal conduit (bladder) while the second stage being the actual amputation. However, the surgery can also be performed in one single stage.

Bilateral Cingulotomy

This is a surgical procedure that is performed on the brain with the objective of disabling the cingulate gyrus, a small section of the brain that acts to connect the brain’s limbic region with the frontal lobes. Essentially used as a means of alleviating pain in severe cases of cancer, this form of surgery has also found application in psychosurgery, that is surgery to treat mental illness that have become resistant to other forms of treatment. It has become an alternative to lobotomy as a psychosurgical procedure. However, though its use in order to ease pain among cancer patients has been well received and is rated to be quite satisfactory, the same for treating depression is however shrouded in controversy.

Endoscopic Thoracic Sympathectomy

Endoscopic Thoracic Sympathectomy or ETS is a form of surgery that aims to disable certain portions of the sympathetic nervous system. This surgery has been found effective in treating certain physical anomalies like hyperhidrosis or excessive sweating, facial blushing, Raynaud’s disease and Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. An interesting side-effect of this disease is that it robs the patient of the ability to blush, which makes it effective as a cosmetic procedure to treat people who blush excessively. Also, care is taken that the treatment is performed on both sides of the body since if its done on only one side, the treated side will cease to blush while the side that has not been treated upon will continue to exist in its natural state.

Vaginectomy

This form of surgery involves the surgical removal of the vagina, either in part or as a whole. This is usually performed to treat various forms of cancer or in certain sexual reassignment surgeries. However, the surgery is generally followed with the reconstruction of the vagina using parts sourced from other parts of the patients body.

Lobotomy

Lobotomy is essentially a neurosurgical procedure that involves the removal of the frontal lobes of the brain, which is brought about by severing the connections both to and from. Simply put, this leads to the destruction of the prefrontal cortex. However, this is a form of treatment that can’t boast of an excellent track record and can be described as controversial at best. That’s perhaps is the reason for it being rarely used nowadays, though it’s use has not completely stopped. In the past, lobotomies used to be performed to treat a range of mental illness, including schizophrenia. On the flip side though, this can lead to extensive personality changes or maybe even mental retardation. Among famous celebrities, lobotomy was performed on president Kennedy’s sister. To that effect, Wikipedia has the following information to share:

Lobotomy was performed on Rosemary Kennedy, sister of President John F. Kennedy, when she was 23 years of age on the basis of what her father described as moodiness and a growing interest in men. Performed by Walter Freeman, the procedure however, failed to produce the desired result. Instead, the lobotomy reduced Rosemary to an infantile mentality that made her incontinent and left her staring blankly at walls for hours while her verbal skills were reduced to unintelligible babble. The exact nature of Rosemary’s affliction was kept away from public glare by her father for years in order to prevent a political backlash, while the public were made to believe it to be the result of mental retardation. Her sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founded the Special Olympics in her honor in 1968.

Penectomy

This is a surgical procedure that involves the removal of the penis, either in parts or in its entirety. This usually forms a method of treating cancer though it’s also performed to make up for a circumcision that has gone wrong. However, some men tend to undergo penectomies voluntarily so as to bring about their physical modification, though professionals are still to be decided whether penile amputation is a pathology, thus making it a part of a body dysmorphic disorder.

Circumcision

A very common procedure, circumcision involves the surgical removal of the foreskin of the penis. It is performed by Muslims and Jews for religious reasons while some doctors perform them citing health benefits. It is a controversial procedure and is something that is non-essential and can be done without. It is generally performed on a child who may not be too aware of it and generally don’t have a say whether it should be performed at all. However, it often leads to the development of psychological issues in adult men, who may end up performing the next bizarre surgery – foreskin restoration.

Foreskin Restoration

This refers to the process of expanding the residual skin on the penis in order to make it look like a natural foreskin or prepuce that covers the glans penis and can be achieved either through surgical or non-surgical methods. It is generally performed by those who have undergone circumcision or may have suffered an injury, though some uncircumcised men who wish to have a longer foreskin or who have phimosis also undergo foreskin restoration. For some men, this amounts to a big boost to their self-esteem and works perfect for those who are keen to have control over their sexual organs once more. European Jews went in for secret foreskin restoration operations during World War II so as to escape Nazi persecution.

Lindbergh Operation

The Lindbergh Operation owes its place in this list due to a special reason; it was the first surgery ever to be performed entirely with the aid of robots under guidance from doctors through telecommunications. The operation took place in France on the 7th of September, 2001 by Professor Jacques Marescaux and his team from the Institute for Research into Cancer of the Digestive System or IRCAD, and with success. Another interesting aspect is that while the surgery took place in France, it was controlled by French doctors sitting in New York. Never before in the history of medical science was anything similar was attempted, as the technical solution proved to be a success in executing this type of procedure by cutting down on time delay inherent to long distance transmissions. The 45-minute operation involved removing the gallbladder of a patient in surgical ward A in Strasbourg Civil Hospital, in Eastern France while surgeons from New York controlled the arms of the ZEUS™ Robotic Surgical System. Designed by Computer Motion to perform the surgery, the vital link between the robotic system and the surgeon was provided by a high-speed fiber optic service, which was the outcome of a combined effort of several France Telecom group entities.

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