Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi was one of the leading plastic surgeons of the Muslim era. He performed many plastic surgery procedures and delineated many principles in the surgery field. He is also the first to discover in details of the classic operation for breast cancer, lithotripsy for bladder stones, techniques for removing thyroid cysts, treatment of sebaceous cysts using an exploratory needle, and treatment of lachrymal fistula by converting it to a fistula into the nasal cavity using cautery. He was the first surgeon to use the cotton as a medical dressing for controlling haemorrhage and he also used wax and alcohol to stop bleeding from the skull during cranial surgery.
Besides, his involvement in urology was very significant. One of the oldest surgical operations in history was the extraction of stones from the urinary bladder via a perineal incision and through the bladder neck. Al-Zahrawi invented a metal probe or a sound to confirm the presence of the stone before proceeding with the perineal cystolithotomy operation named Al-Mirwed. He also was the first to use forceps, a new instrument with a better grasp on the stone. Before him, extraction of the stone was by an instrument similar to a small spoon that goes around the stone and scoops it out. He remarkably improved the technique of this operation and reduced its risks.
His greatest contribution to the history is kitab Al-Tasrif li-man ‘ajaza ‘an al-ta’lif. It is an illustrated encyclopaedia of medicine and surgery in 1500 pages which comprised of 30 treatises or books that was intended for medical students and the practicing physician. In the first two treatises, Al-Zahrawi classified 325 diseases and discussed their symptomatology and treatment. Of all the contents of Al-Tasrif, book 30 which is on surgery became the most famous and had the widest and greatest influence. It was used as standard reference work in the subject in all the universities of Europe for over five hundred years. Al-Tasrif also contains the earliest pictures of surgical instruments in history and about 200 of them are described and illustrated.
For the first time in medical history, Al-Zahrawi described a haemorrhagic disease transmitted by unaffected women to their male children which is unusual disease called haemophilia in his book. He also developed various aspects of surgery such as ophthalmology and diseases of the ear, nose, and throat, surgery of the head and neck, general surgery, obstetrics, gynaecology, military medicine, and orthopaedic surgery. His book shows clearly that Al-Zahrawi was not only a medical scholar but a great practicing physician and surgeon.