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What does "Evisceration" Mean?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 29 November 2016
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Evisceration is the removal of the contents of the abdomen or eye. It can occur traumatically or in a therapeutic context. In the case of abdominal evisceration, also known as disembowelment, the material is usually only partially removed for examination and treatment, and the surgeon replaces it afterward. In the eye, a surgeon may perform surgery to remove the contents of the globe of the eye in a person with a severe non-responsive infection, or in certain other settings.

Historically, disembowelment was actually a form of torture and punishment. Removing the contents of the stomach cavity causes intense pain and eventually leads to death from shock and infection, and it was sometimes a gruesome and colorful addition to executions. Today, deliberate evisceration most commonly happens when a surgeon wants to thoroughly examine the bowels during a procedure.

Some reasons to remove the bowels can include checking for cancerous growths and lesions, looking for all sources of intestinal bleeds, and feeling the intestines for signs of necrotic tissue. If the surgeon identifies any issues, they can be treated immediately. Then, the bowels are gently packed back into the abdominal cavity. Full removal is extremely unusual; usually, the surgeon pulls out segments for examination and then replaces them. Removal of the viscera to access organs for harvesting is also a part of organ transplant procedures.

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There is also a chance of experiencing evisceration as a result of trauma. Car accidents may open up the abdomen and expose the contents, requiring a surgeon to inspect, repair, and replace them. Additionally, sometimes patients experience a phenomenon called wound dehiscence after abdominal surgery, where the surgical incision opens up and the viscera may spill out, requiring emergency surgery to correct the problem.

In the case of procedures involving the eye, a patient with limited vision in one eye and severe pain, infections, or other problems may opt for evisceration or enucleation, where the whole eye is taken out. This procedure may require local or general anesthesia. After the patient heals, a prosthetic specialist can fit an aesthetic prosthesis to conceal the evidence of surgery, making patients feel more comfortable socially.

The term “evisceration” also comes up in a nonsurgical context. When people slaughter animals for human consumption, part of the process of handling the carcass includes removing the viscera and internal organs. Some may be eaten or used to make foods like sausages, while others may be discarded, depending on the animal and the processing facility.

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burcinc
Post 3

My uncle underwent an eye evisceration procedure recently where they replaced his left eye with a prosthetic eye. He had a bad car accident last year which damaged his left eye. I don't know the details but I think his eye became detached or something and he lost his eyesight. He got a horrible infection from it as well.

He went through surgery last year but his eye didn't improve at all and the doctors did not want the infection to extend to the brain. So they finally decided to do an evisceration and replace his eye.

My uncle was happy with the decision because he was in a lot of pain and he said that people were staring at him because of it. It's been two weeks since the evisceration surgery and he's feeling much better. It really does make a difference socially because he doesn't feel so bad about his appearance anymore.

candyquilt
Post 2

@ysmina-- I remember learning about that in Social Science classes in schools too. The idea of it was pretty disturbing at the time!

I did not know that evisceration still takes place today in surgeries. Since this type of evisceration is temporary and the organs are put back later, doesn't it cause problems and discomfort for the patient later?

I mean, we are born with our organs already in place. The thought of having someone taking out my organs and putting it back is scary. How do surgeons place them back in exactly the same way it was before?

ysmina
Post 1

I looked up this term because it was mentioned in my homework about mummies and mummification in Ancient Egypt.

Before mummies were wrapped and preserved in Ancient Egypt, all of the internal organs of the dead were eviscerated and thrown out, except for the heart. The Egyptians did not throw out the heart because they thought that it served the purpose the brain actually serves- thinking and controlling all life functions.

The brain was eviscerated too but was thrown out because they thought that it had no purpose. Evisceration was the only way that the Egyptians could preserve bodies. They would fill the empty body with various herbs and spices before they wrapped it with cloths.

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