NHNN featured in Channel 4 documentary 

12/12/2011 00:00 

The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery was featured on Channel 4 on Saturday night in a documentary investigating the power of superstition and its relation to modern medicine.


Tony Robinson with NHNN surgeon Andrew McEvoy

The programme Gods and Monsters was presented by Tony Robinson and examined ‘the extraordinary things our ancestors believed…and the extraordinary things they did as a result’.

Instead of bacteria, viruses or failing organs, our ancestors blamed disease and illness on demons, sprites and even God.  They sought cures not in pills or plasters – but in prayer, potions and the paranormal. Disease was supernatural.
Tony Robinson’s journey back into this world begins in Saxon times 1,400 years ago.  He discovers how relics from a bygone culture led people to believe that such ailments as strokes and angina were caused by mischievous elves. 
In Saturday’s episode Tony visited the NHNN to witness surgeon Andrew McEvoy remove a tumour from patient Samantha Souter’s brain – while she was awake.

The procedure known as an awake craniotomy allowed Andrew to talk to Samantha while he was operating to monitor brain function. The NHNN does a number of awake craniotomies every year. The procedure also avoids the complications of general anaesthesia allowing a faster recovery.

Cutting through the skull to expose the brain has its origins in the Stone Age, 6,000 years ago. Our ancestors believed that the hole in the head provided an escape route for the evil spirits which had invaded the victim’s body.

Andrew said: “Awake craniotomies are becoming increasingly more common for NHS patients. It is fascinating to think that a similar procedure was used thousands of years ago for a very different reason. I am pleased to say that Samantha is doing very well following her surgery.”

Click here to watch the programme.


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