Vascular Disease is not a Modern Disease

Vascular disease is not a modern disease. Computed tomographic (CT) imaging studies has found severe peripheral vascular disease in ancient Egyptian mummies. The burden of this disease in antiquity, occurred in mummies in approximately the same rate  in large arteries as in modern populations.  Investigations were made of a small series of feet belonging to six ancient Egyptians, with one case of particular interest as it provides evidence of an amputation of the big toe, probably related to peripheral atherosclerosis. 

Image A : Mummified foot with a wooden prosthetic “fake” big toe replacing an amputated toe from arterial disease. 
Image C-D : CT scans showing vascular disease (arrows) in the foot and pelvis of mummies.


A high prevalence of atherosclerosis in ancient Egyptian mummies (up to 38%), particularly in younger females has been previously described. This parallels the findings in other ancient cultures.  However, those data refer to large arteries of the body but not the most peripheral arteries of the foot, which we see more commonly associated with diabetic disease which closely reflects a modern disease pattern.  Vascular disease was present in half of the cases (three of six). In conclusion, it is confirmed that PAD of the foot in ancient Egypt was a common finding.

Previous investigations suggested a mixture of genetic, individual, and environmental causes for the atherosclerosis and identified, for example, inhalation of smoke, chronic systemic infections, and genetic predisposition.


First Evidence of Peripheral Atherosclerosis in the Feet of Egyptian Mummies [Journal]
Nerlich, Andreas G., Panzer, Stephanie, Donell, Simon, Bianucci, Raffaella
European Journal of Vascular & Endovascular Surgery, 2021-02-01 , Volume 61, Issue 2, Pages 352-353


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