Methods of lithotripsy in ancient Greece and Byzantium

J Urol. 2007 Oct;178(4 Pt 1):1182-3. doi: 10.1016/j.juro.2007.05.124. Epub 2007 Aug 14.


Purpose: In this article we present the medical methods of lithotripsy applied by ancient Greek and Byzantine physicians, and their influence on the development of surgery after that time.

Materials and methods: Study and analysis of the original texts of the Byzantine medical writers, written in Greek and containing the knowledge of the ancient Greek, Hellenistic and Roman periods, were performed.

Results: The Byzantine method of lithotripsy was the result of the eternal knowledge of the spasmolytic, analgesic and lithotriptic effect of various herbs, together with ancient surgical techniques of stone removal from Hellenistic and Roman periods. No operation was attempted for the extraction of stones from kidneys. Rather the idea was to drop the stones to the bladder or into the urethra, or dilute them into smaller pieces with various herbs.

Conclusions: Ancient Greek and Byzantine physicians described conservative and surgical methods, derived from the texts of early surgeons, to which they added their own observations.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Byzantium
  • Greece
  • History, Ancient
  • History, Medieval
  • Humans
  • Lithotripsy / history*
  • Manuscripts, Medical as Topic / history*
  • Phytotherapy / history*
  • Urinary Calculi / history*