Two cases of 16th century head injuries managed in royal European families

Kamilah A. Dowling, James Tait Goodrich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


In Europe, during the 16th century, there were a number of prominent general surgeons adventurous enough to consider operating on the brain for head injuries. From the time of Hippocrates, operating on the skull and brain was considered both treacherous and too dangerous to be undertaken except on rare occasions. Operating on a member of a royal court was considered even more exceptional because if the outcome was poor, the surgeon could lose a hand or limb, or, even worse, be beheaded. The authors present two interesting cases of royal family members who underwent surgery for head injuries that were quite severe. The surgeons involved, Ambroise Paré, Andreas Vesalius, and Berengario da Carpi, were among the most prominent surgeons in Europe. Despite very challenging political situations, all were willing to undertake a complex surgical intervention on the member of a prominent royal family. The individuals involved, both royal and medical, plus the neurosurgical injuries are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberE2
JournalNeurosurgical focus
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2016


  • Ambroise Paré
  • Andreas Vesalius
  • Berengario da Carpi
  • Head injury
  • Henry II
  • History of neurosurgery
  • Lorenzo de Medici
  • Traumatic injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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