Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Mummy's Medicine
11 July 2014

Mummy's Medicine

This is no ordinary hand. It belongs to Andong – the mummified remains of a 17th century Korean man. Andong, named after the city where he was buried, was middle-aged when he died. Using autopsy and computed tomography (CT) images, researchers diagnosed Andong with a congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH), a birth defect which often proves fatal in infants. Diaphragmatic hernia describes a condition where a hole forms in the diaphragm, the muscular sheet that separates the chest and abdomen. Developing before birth, the defect allows the intestines to enter the chest cavity, preventing correct lung growth. Today, improved surgical techniques mean babies born with CDH have a much better outlook than in Andong’s day. The Andong mummy is currently the only confirmed case of CDH identified from archaeological remains.

Written by Hayley Simon

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