I have wondered about surgery and medical assistance in/after battles in Medieval Ages. If we look at modern warfare we all know the “medics”. We all see them in movies, coming to aid wounded soldiers even during a still ongoing battle risking their own lifes for another person’s life. But how was this done in Medieval times? Did something like a “medic” excist? If so should the game have these “medics”?
The information I did gather can be viewed below. Personally I would defenitely like to see surgery in the game. Like amputations after a battle in a tent full with wounded soldiers, soldiers caring away fallen comrades, maybe even a surgeon doing tests in a village or city. This would not only show the harsh and cruel way of the aftermath of a battle it would add tremendously to the realism of the game. It’s something you rarely see in games, maybe because they want to avoid a higher rating of the game since this is “gory” to say the least, but it is truly fascinating to see in my opinion.
What do you think and what can you find about this subject from that period in history?
The Barber Surgeon
Barber surgeons could be found in most medieval towns and, as well as trimming and cutting beards and hair, were also known for surgical procedures. The most common of these was bloodletting, a commonplace procedure which was believed to be essential for good health.
Many of the procedures carried out by the barber surgeon related to violence, such as tending wounds caused by swords, knives or arrows. Because the use of anaesthetics was restricted to those who could pay for it, many people had to suffer the pain of an operation with only a plank of wood to bite on to deflect their attention from the pain, or drinking large quantities of wine to dumb the senses.
The Medieval Surgeon
A good surgeon tended to be known by reputation as much as qualification, and, if successful, would be called upon to attend the families of royalty and nobility. Many of the operations which are carried out in the twenty first century, were also attempted in the Middle Ages.
These included caesarean births, bone setting, dentistry, the removal of bladder stones and even cateract procedures. However, many of these procedures resulted in the death of the patient, either on the operating table, or as a result of a later infection or complication from the operation.
Surgeons would sometimes attend the aftermath of a battle, to ascertain who was still alive and to aid those who had survived the fighting. Signs of life were checked by placing a bowl of water on the patient’s chest to see if it rose and fell with his breathing.
Some surgeons specialised in removing arrow heads from their patient’s bodies. Each time they were successful, a new type of arrow would be invented and the surgeon would need to alter his procedure slightly.
Operations in the Middle Ages
Surgeons had to make use of natural or herbal medicines such as mandrake root, hemlock and opium, which were used as anaesthetics and wine which was used as an antiseptic. It’s even known that urine was also used as an antiseptic in those times.
Bloodletting was one of the most common medical procedures of the Middle Ages. It was performed by making a small cut on the inside of the arm, from which the blood was allowed to run into a bowl. Many barber surgeons had street signs showing a blood bowl to advertise their profession and attract new customers.
Bloodletting was sometimes performed by using leeches to suck out blood from the patient, instead of draining the blood from his or her body.
Trepanning was an operation on the skull, which some historians believe was carried out in an attempt to cure mental illness. The procedure involved cutting a hole into the skull. Examinations of skeletons from this era have showed that the skull bones did grow back, proving that some patients survived the operation.
Cauterisation was another risky procedure which involved treating the affected part of a patient’s body with red hot pokers. In some cases, this did actually work by sanitising the injury. Wounds caused by an amputation were sometimes sealed by burning.
Although medieval surgery carried risks, many operations were successful, and this was despite a lack of knowledge about germs and sanitation, something which would not be fully understood for a few more centuries.
Example of a surgery during that time
*"They brought to me a knight with a sore on his leg; and a woman who was feeble-minded. To the knight I applied a small poultice; and the woman I put on diet to turn her humour wet.
Then a French doctor came and said, “This man knows nothing about treating them.” He then said, “Bring me a sharp axe.” Then the doctor laid the leg of the knight on a block of wood and told a man to cut off the leg with the axe, upon which the marrow flowed out and the patient died on the spot.
He then examined the woman and said, “There is a devil in her head.” He therefore took a razor, made a deep cross-shaped cut on her head, peeled away the skin until the bone of the skull was exposed, and rubbed it with salt. The woman also died instantly".*