Scientists have previously detected atherosclerosis in ancient Egyptian mummies. CT scans helped them discover this condition in large arteries, but none of the past studies on mummies highlighted such a diagnosis in small arteries, a condition known as Peripheral Atherosclerosis. But a new study led by a team of German and British scientists provides the first evidence on this type of atherosclerosis in an Egyptian mummy.
Peripheral atherosclerosis is a common circulation condition that reduces blood flow through the narrow arteries to the limbs. This deprives the limbs from their blood needs and causes symptoms such as leg pain while walking (limping).
Peripheral atherosclerosis is currently treated with drugs and recommendations of healthier behaviors. But the team on the current study, including researchers from the Institute of Pathology, Munich, and the University of East Anglia (UEA), documented the first amputation surgery to treat this condition in an Egyptian mummy.
Years ago, the same team announced the discovery of the first wooden artificial prosthesis that replaced the big toe in the right foot of an Egyptian mummy.
In the new study published in the European Journal of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery, the team links the amputation to peripheral atherosclerosis.
"Using CT scan imaging, we found that the soft embalmed tissues hide a small peripheral artery suffering from irregular calcifications, indicating a peripheral atherosclerosis condition. The same mummy also suffered from a common atherosclerosis in the aorta," Andreas Nerlich, researcher from Munich's Institute of Pathology and senior author on the study told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Atherosclerosis in large arteries was common in ancient Egyptian mummies and it was frequently documented, so Nerlich and his team focused on the peripheral arteries. Former studies neglected Peripheral Atherosclerosis Disease (PAD) which affects peripheral arteries, so the case documented in the study fills an important gap in this field, according to Nerlich.
The team suggests that the artificial limb was used as a treatment for the amputation caused by PAD and not as one of the aesthetic procedures usually applied during the Egyptian funerary rituals. "We found that the amputation was carried on while the mummy was still alive, and not as an afterlife aesthetic measure, because the amputation spot was covered with an intact layer of soft tissues and skin," explained Nerlich.