Trepanning The Horror

Trepanning, also known as trepanation, trephination, trephining or making a burr hole is a surgical intervention in which a hole is drilled or scraped into the human skull, exposing the dura mater to treat health problems related to intracranial diseases or release pressured blood buildup from an injury. — Wikipedia

Careful with your Behavior!

This week we are going to look at another procedure still used today! Trepanning was a procedure where they took a circular shaped tool and drilled holes into people’s heads. This was supposed to improve the quality of life and general health for most individuals.

There is evidence of it being used to treat those behaving erratically, and it can be assumed that the behavior can be attributed to mental illness. However, they believed that mental illness was caused by being inhabited by a malicious or evil spirit.


Evidence of trepanning goes as far back as Neolithic times, and from several resources I found, the bit of bone removed was kept as a charm to ward away evil spirits. Over the course of history, it was hailed to increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain, thus expanding and
enhancing performance.

I Volunteer For Trepanning!

People often would even have them done voluntarily! There is no specific evidence to support the reasoning behind having the operation done. However, you are safe in assuming the vast majority of patients lived. There has been a vast amount of proof of that from examining ancient skulls. There were quite a few that had evidence of bone and skull
structure healing.

Head Surgery - Trepanning
Head Surgery – Trepanning

Today we use the procedure to help relieve swelling of the brain by removing a portion of the bone to be replaced at a later time by some sort of plate or with the bone itself. This specific process is referred to as a craniotomy and is aimed at preventing brain damage after a severe
head injury.

If you do not create space for the blood to go you will have severe brain damage and possibly even death. With the way it is performed today, it is not nearly so graphic as the olden procedures. We also use the procedure to clear the way for life saving brain surgeries.

When The Horror Begins

Now, you may be wondering where the horror side of it comes in if it was so widely accepted, and there was no lasting brain damage if performed correctly.

Put yourself in the patient’s shoes. You are sitting on whatever table, chair, or bed they are going to perform this procedure in. You have no idea what is going on or why they want to do this other than you are possessed. There is nothing wrong with you and you advocate for that over and over.

You cry, plead, even beg them not to do it. You know it is going to hurt. They did nothing to drug you or sedate you to counter the agony you are going to go through. At most you would have received alcohol to curb the pain.

They strap you down and prepare the skin where they are going to drill. You feel everything—the pulling of your hair while they shave the scalp clean. They cut in your skin, and you feel the blood from your scalp pouring down your head. Scalp cuts always bleed excessively.

Asylum Corridor
Asylum Corridor

You try to beg them to stop again, the pain is overwhelming. However, they respond by stuffing a bit in your mouth—silencing any further protest beyond your quiet sobbing before they peel back your scalp.

Then it begins. They drill into your skull. You hear the grinding, the way your skull gives beneath the metal drill. You smell burning of the bone. You feel the vibrations with each rotation and hear the bone shards clinking against the floor. If you have not passed out by now, you feel the sudden release—your head no longer being tugged and twisted by the drill.

It Is done.

Now you think, for the rest of your life you will have to protect your head. You were lucky. They only drilled one hole in your head. The likelihood you will be okay is high. However, there are others who were not so lucky. There are others that had nearly the whole top of their skull removed.

Pennhurst Hospital - USA, Pennsylvania - Spring City
Pennhurst Hospital – USA, Pennsylvania – Spring City

And you count yourself lucky, oh so lucky. Yet, now you have to deal with the torture they administered for the rest of your life. Would you contract an infection and die? Or would you die from a minor head bump one day while working outside in the garden?

Living On The Edge

Your life has been drastically altered and nothing will ever be the same again. Bone does not regrow, nor does the hair lodged within the future scar.

You will forever hold the evidence of this procedure, and you will never forget what they put you through—all because you were depressed, anxious, read novels, or something else that could have been handled differently.

C. Brady

6 thoughts on “Trepanning The Horror

  1. I am so blessed to live in this day and age. I read novels and do other “strange” things like run away screaming from scary hornets because they ARE scary. Someone would surely have tried to fix me. This was an interesting (but sad and horrifying) read, thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah it was something that was tough to write. It doesn’t seem like it’s a big deal but my mind wandered down the “what would it be like” path and even though I am not a horror writer (more paranormal romance/fantasy tbh lol) the little bit at the bottom came to mind. I’m glad you found it interesting ❤


  2. i’m glad the way they do it now is different from how they did it before… but you are right… it would be scary to put yourself in the patient’s shoes… believing you are wholeheartedly cognitively intact…. and then have random strangers do something you do not understand to your body.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly! When I was writing this, it was like there was a need for me to transport the reader into what it was like. Because in and of itself it doesn’t seem to be too terrible. But when you step into how it was done not so long ago it turned into a whole other beast

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.