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12 Things A Surgeon Wants You To Know About Your Body

Instead of taking out your faulty kidney, they'll just plumb a new one in on top and you'll have three kidneys. Now you know.

Writer, doctor, and Antarctic explorer Gavin Francis has written a travel book around the human body called Adventures in Human Being.

We asked him to tell us some things about our bodies and what happens when we try to fix them. This is what he told us:

1. When you have a kidney transplant, you end up with three kidneys in your body.

It makes for a more complicated operation to remove the faulty kidney, so they just plumb the new one in on top and insert it into the space above your hipbone. You're just a bag of kidneys, essentially.

2. You're awake during brain surgery, and will remember most of it.

3. A burst aorta can be plugged up with a surgeon's finger who runs alongside the gurney as they transfer you and your open chest to the operating theatre.

4. If your adrenal glands are accidentally squeezed during surgery, you can die from an overdose of adrenaline.

These glands lie just above the kidneys and occasionally grow tumours that pour out too much adrenaline so have to be surgically removed. It's one of the most delicate abdominal operations because of the risk of death.

5. When there’s too much bleeding from a wound, surgeons pack it with dressings made out of seaweed.

6. A third of heart surgery patients wake up with a thing called "pump head" but no one knows why "pump head" happens.

7. Electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, is still in use today.

8. The story of Sleeping Beauty might have a basis in truth – it's possible to prick your finger on a rose thorn and then fall into a coma.

9. It wasn’t doctors who figured out the way the eye works, it was astronomers.

10. Replacement lenses are made of the same stuff Spitfire pilots got in their eyes when they were shot down out of the sky.

11. Your artificial hip joint could have a new life as part of an aeroplane, a satellite, or the mechanism of a wind turbine.

Artificial hip and knee joints are made out of some of the most high performance alloys ever devised – chromium, cobalt, and titanium. Crematoriums collect them from the ashes and send them for recycling.

12. The first kidney dialysis machine was built by a Dutch physician during WWII with orange juice tins, a water pump from a car, and cellophane.

All facts are from Adventures in Human Being, a new book from Gavin Francis about your weird body, available now in the UK and in the US from October.