Better Living through Trepanation for Fun and Profit… or Something…

I get epic sinus headaches. It feels as if my head is going to explode. When that happens, nothing seems to help. And believe me, I’ve tried almost everything. At the height of my pain I’ve been known to ask people to drill holes in my head so as to relieve the pressure. Fortunately no one has ever taken me up on the suggestion.

Imagine my shock, though, when a friend recently sent me a link to the International Trepanation Advocacy Group. Seriously? There are still people out there who think it’s a good idea to drill holes in people’s heads? And they have a newsletter! For crying out loud, how much activity can there be in the world of trepanning that it merits a newsletter?

Their belief is that “making a [sic] opening in the skull favorably alters movement of blood through the brain and improves brain functions which are more important than ever before in history to adapt to an ever more rapidly changing world.”

Proving that any lunatic concept can gain a following, they actually got 15 volunteers to come forward to be trepanned, and found a surgeon crazy enough to perform the procedure. The site claims the people were satisfied with the results, but that the data was inconclusive.

Well, duh. Always assuming that when you expose the dura matter in your head to bacteria and infection you don’t wind up getting meningitis or some other malady, and that your surgeon doesn’t accidently drill too far and scramble your brains, you would be hard pressed, in my opinion, to then demonstrate any benefits of this procedure other than the fact that by some miracle you were still alive.

There was a guy named Bart Hughes in the 60’s who drilled a hole in his own head with a Black and Decker drill. He said the increased blood flow would be as good for the brain as ginkgo biloba. He should know. After all, he was a librarian. The man should have been placed in a rubber room and never let out.

I firmly believe that nature has a plan, and that evolution is its brilliant handmaiden. If having a hole in your skull actually made you a more effective human, I strongly suspect that nature wouldn’t have elected to cover your fragile brains with a hard coating in the first place.

Yes, there is sporadic evidence of trepanning throughout history, but that doesn’t vindicate the practice. You can also find evidence of bloodletting by leeches and intentional cranial deformation, but I’m not going to run out and do those things either.