Blood and Guts: A History of Surgery
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Blood and Guts: A History of Surgery

2008, Health  -   27 Comments
Ratings: 8.78/10 from 59 users.

Blood and Guts: A History of SurgeryDocumentary series looking at the brutal, bloody and dangerous history of surgery. Michael Mosley recounts the history of surgery through its catastrophes and successes.

1. Into the Brain. Just over 100 years ago, cutting into the brain was a terrifying prospect for both patient and surgeon. They could expect the result to be the surgeon bloodied and defeated, and the patient dead. From freak accidents involving crowbars through the skull to notorious lobotomies with icepicks, this programme reveals how, through mishap and misadventure, brain surgery has become the life-saving discipline it is today.

2. Bleeding Hearts. With a family history of heart problems, presenter Michael Mosley takes a personal interest in these pioneers, who teetered on the scalpel-edge between saviour and executioner. Michael has a go at heart surgery, meets a man with no heartbeat and witnesses an operation where the patient is cooled until their brain stops and has all of their blood sucked out.

3. Spare Parts. These days, transplant surgery saves thousands of lives every year and almost everything, from heart to eyes, can be replaced. But in the beginning, transplants killed rather than cured, because surgeons didn't understand that they were taking on one of the most efficient killing systems we know of - the human immune system.

4. Fixing Faces. Thought of as a modern phenomenon, it actually started over 400 years ago with a spate of botched nose jobs. Since then, surgeons have been entranced with the idea that not only could they fix the body, but could even fix our sense of self-esteem. Presenter Michael Mosley undergoes both 16th-century bondage and 21st-century botox in his journey of discovery.

5. Bloody Beginnings. Presenter Michael Mosley finds out how the early days of surgery were dark and barbaric, when the surgeon's knife was more likely to kill you than save you, and invasive medicine generally meant being bloodlet by leeches to within an inch of your life.

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27 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Blaice

    This first video is absolutely repulsive. The brain is so, so incredibly delicate it makes me sick to my stomach to see it even touched, let alone destroyed. I Hope the rest aren't as gruesome.

  2. Trent Keele

    Was that screaming necessary?

  3. Godsclaws

    woooww.... lobotomys.... brutal... With the methods that guy used Im suprised ANY of them survived, let alone improved! Id rather stay mental then have someone hammer a pick into my brain and wiggle it around..

  4. Andrea Cobb

    Amazing. What a great program. Very interesting.

  5. SheSang

    I know I only watched 5 min of this so far, but I would NOT want someone to operate on me if they've just found out their child has died! I don't care HOW dedicated to your work you are.

    1. Al Pacino

      I think the opposite. If the surgeon must operate to get his/her mind off life's cruel realities and passionately do his/her work, then who am I to refuse such commitment? And Harvey Cushing is not just another doctor. He is the father of neurosurgery...... can you imagine how much hard work he had to do to accomplish this? Who are we to judge such a brilliant man. SheSang, you must be a righteous person. You must be such a pain.

    2. Joseph Guevara

      I don't think it's about being righteous. Some people wouldn't be in the right frame of mind to do anything that requires concentration after a major life event like losing a child. Just because someone is good at something, doesn't mean that they're infallible. Who are we to judge such a brilliant man? Just plain human, that's who.

  6. ong

    I just watched the first episode and though it is quite gory, I think it is really fascinating. I wonder if the brains collected in the jars could be implanted into a human who has a functional body but a damaged brain. Would that be reviving the dead person who has donated his/her functional brain?

    1. Joseph Guevara

      Brains that go into jars are treated with a mixture of ethanol and formaldehyde so that they become firm and so that you can 'cut' them for study. Real brains for transplant (and none have been done even on animals to date) would have to be fresh from the source, meaning it would have the consistency of jello (ish).

    2. diredamsel

      A transplant organ needs blood supply right up until the transplant, otherwise permanent damage occurs. This is common knowledge.

    3. Jonathan Michael

      That is absolutely untrue.

  7. Robby Baker

    Nice! Glad to find something where people aren't arguing about a non existent dog.

  8. adilrye

    I'm at the third episode so far...and I plan on going the whole way. This is not for the faint of heart. It's very gory and to many, very disturbing. So I'd advise the weak stomached not to watch.

    I'm not a doctor or a student studying medicine, but I stumbled upon this because the personal motivations for being these incredible pioneers in surgery is very interesting to learn. I find that there are about as many surgeons who do it out of genuine hope to help humanity, while others have a darker motive, like being number one or obsession. But in the end, even the people who seem a little morally ambiguous ultimately paved the way for medical breakthroughs.

    Really great series.

  9. PaulGloor

    What I don't get is how they get the idea to use the most deadly toxin known to man as major component for cosmetic enhancement !!

    1. Nayara Alves

      Because the difference between the remedy and the poison is not only its dosage, but how it is administered.

  10. wheelnut53

    another good one

  11. ZarathustraSpeaks

    Yeah it looks like their evil plan from the dark side of the moon is working in your case.

    1. adilrye


  12. Andy Rhine

    Great stuff! Some to watch for sure. American TV sucks, guess that's why I cut the cord over a year ago.

    1. adilrye

      yeah, American TV is strictly for fiction. They have great entertainment, but when it comes to documentaries, forget about it. The United Kingdom is where it's at.

    2. Nakor420

      That's because the shadow government doesn't want Americans getting too smart.

    3. ZarathustraSpeaks

      @NAKOR420, Yeah it looks like their evil plan from the dark side of the moon is working in your case

    4. Greg_Mc

      @Nakor420 I will agree that the American Government and the State like run big media corporations do censor and not follow certain stories. This is just my opinion which I pieced together over the years from reading and watching independant news, message boards and web sites like this one. I am a person of average intelect and Mensa certainly isnt knocking on my door trying to get me to join but I do know that whether it be on TV or something I find online you just cant take what your are told at face value, everybody has an agenda (hidden or not) so really think about what you hear on the news etc and research anything you either dont understand or find to be hard to believe or just doesnt sound right to you. Does the American Gov want to dumb down the American people? I have read that yes they do but personally I think that it may be more a case of they dont want certain things (ie the 9/11 conspiracy theories) to be front page news or have docs about it done on major netwroks (I have watched some good docs on Canadian TV I dont think you would ever see on say NBC) because they are either hiding something about it or they dont want the general public jumping on the conspiracy bandwagon forcing them to have to deal with what they already have said is untrue therefore taking them away from other issues they want to deal with like Health care etc. Personaly I have a whole bunch of unanswered questions about what happened on 9/11 most of which came from reading things much smarter people (and experts in various fields) than myself have have written or talked about.

      I agree the BBC does a far better job doing documentaries than American networks but I dont think the American government would not allow this on tv because they say "this is a very informative doc and we dont want the American people learning anything about medical history because we prefer that the average person be uneducated". Perhaps there are not a lot of American docs like this because there isnt a huge audience for it and the newtworks wouldnt get top dollar for commercial time if they run a show that doesnt get the amount of people watching it they need. I think more people would rather watch shows like American idol and Survivor or sit coms at night after a long day at work instead of a doc (even if it is well done and educational, something I peronaly prefer to spend my time watching) that isnt as sensationalized and wildly built up as must see entertainment.
      I hope what I have written makes some sense and you find that I do have a point I am trying to make. What I was trying to say was clear enough in my head but unfortunately because of a bad back I have had to take some pretty strong pain killers which seem to be stopping me from properly verbalizing what I am thinking lol. So take pity on my confused ass when reading this.


    5. 0zyxcba1

      @ Greg_Mc
      "...big media corporations do censor..."

      I did read your post and agree with most everything you wrote, and that with which I might take issue is of little or no importance.

      That all having been said, here's a tip:

      If you reside in The United States of America, do as I did 20 years ago: toss your TV into the nearest dumpster and watch all your days brighten.

      Just yesterday, I went out for breakfast(not a habit of mine ? maybe once or twice a year). Naturally, as EVERYWHERE, there was a TV clued up in a ceiling crux and I watched:

      "Tea Party Politics" was the buzz phrase I happened upon. It went on for about 15 minutes interrupted about every 5 minutes to sell garbage.

      "Tea Party Politics."

      I do not know what that sounds like to you, but to me it sounded just like the advertising interrupting this 'noooz'. It's ALL advertising. American television is marketing.

      American television is marketing, and marketing ONLY!

      After the initial shock of 9/11, there they were 'marketing 9/11', vying for viewers with 'must-see coverage' interspersed, rhythmically, by the real, and only, topic at hand, the only topic that is ever at hand:

      Buy now!
      And be happy...

      Go for it!
      Nearest dumpster!


    6. adilrye

      lol I didn't get mean this to delve into conspiracy theories, but American television is very market centric. I really doubt the networks want to run a doc like this because they don't think there's an audience for it.

      British television tends to run it anyway and see what happens. That seems to be the difference. American networks simply are not risky...
      Let's look at the economy of television before we talk about shadow government conspiracies.

  13. Guest

    The blue eye of that baby is freakin' me out, man.

  14. Teamtigerpaw

    Another well done documentary by the BBC.