Background: Healers around the world successfully practice traditional cautery (in Arabic kaiy) since ancient times. Traditional cautery, centuries of medical practice with unidentified exact origin has survived till today that authenticates its significance and effectiveness in mitigating human sufferings and diseases.

Objective: This overview aimed to describe and synthesise the literature on historical perspectives of traditional cautery.

Methods: The relevant literature published in English prior to 2018 was electronically searched in databases (PubMed, MEDLINE, Google Scholar, and OvidSP) using the Boolean operators and keywords. Manual searches and references of published articles and books were also conducted. A number of pertinent articles and abstracts (N=7490) were retained for extensive appraisal by two independent reviewers, and finally, 82 articles were included in this paper.

Results: The historical practice of traditional cautery is documented in diverse ancient cultures but the earliest references found in Surgical Papyrus (1550BC). The inconsistent data evidenced the origin of cautery, definitions, instruments, anatomical sites and techniques, advancements and research in traditional cautery since antiquity. Cautery was diminished in early 1800 century but revived in late 1800-1900 AD in the world. Presently, traditional cautery with better procedures and aseptic means is used by healers for treatment of a variety of diseases around the Eastern and Western world.

Conclusion: Traditional cautery has a checkered history and is a complementary modality for managing difficult-to-treat medical and surgical conditions. Scientifically more advanced modern types of cautery are used in the treatment of a variety of diseases across the world. This study calls for researching elucidating the underlying mechanisms of actions and effects of traditional cautery. Cautery is an ancient traditional therapy practised by healers across the globe since ancient times. Traditional cautery has checkered history, but most practitioners from diverse cultures of the world successfully practised it in the mitigation of human sufferings and diseases. Despite technological advancements in cauterisation techniques in modern medical sciences, traditional ancient cautery is survived due to a variety of strong socio-cultural beliefs and progressive safe application in selected patients not at risk of developing any complication. This historical overview calls for future studies to provide evidence-based data concerning the sociocultural factors, clinical perspectives and basic underlying mechanisms of action and effects of traditional cautery in different diseases.

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