Surgical Nightmares

There is, I find, a fascination with outdated methods of medicine. It stems, I think, from a combination of what strikes us now as the humorous ignorance on the part of the medical practitioners of bygone eras and abject terror at the products of said ignorance. Certainly, a quick glance around the web finds a myriad of lists focusing on extremely painful procedures and heinous looking surgical objects meant to cure ailments ranging from appendicitis to hiccups.

This particular list of “20 Scary Old School Surgical Tools” is no exception and, indeed, it does manage quite handily to fulfill the purpose set forth by its title containing, as it does, a score of surgical instruments of dubious nature and malevolent air. It is rife with miniature scimitars, saws, and horrid contraptions meant only to mutilate and scar as well as less insidious forms of early quackery like the tobacco enema kit pictured above.

The hook here, so to speak, is the sheer brutality these instruments represent. There is no subtlety or delicacy involved; they are meant to create a serviceable opening as quickly as possible so that the doctor could insert their hands inside whatever cavity was their focus. In that regard, it strikes me that, perhaps, the gynecologist’s arsenal remains little changed, a collection of devices used to stretch and pry open their victims as if opening a tin can. Of course, it is also entirely possible that this may merely represent a distinct and grievous misunderstanding of the gynecological craft on my part.

via jwz

15 Responses to “Surgical Nightmares”

  1. Tim Kern Says:

    I love antique medical equipment. I need more for my collection, I think… :D

  2. Chris Lowrance Says:

    I think much of the cold, seemingly brutal nature of gynecology is due primarily to wanting to make it as LITTLE like sex as possible. Most patients seem to prefer the physical discomfort of cold hands and hard speculums to the emotional discomfort any tenderness on the part of the nurses or doctor could cause.

    But of course, I’m just a dude who reads sociology papers. Interested in first-hand opinions.

  3. Infamous Amos Says:

    I am suddenly struck with a powerful urge to watch Dead Ringers now.

    PS: ‘Artificial Leech’ would be a pretty sweet name for an industrial band, if it isn’t one already.

  4. Julia Says:

    Yeesh, and to think the idea of putting contact lenses in freaks me out.

  5. john colby Says:

    Cool post ! I have a huge thing for artificial limbs. This is my prized piece.

  6. Alice Says:

    When it comes to outdated medical instruments, my curiosity was not appropriately piqued until my first visit to the Mütter Museum. But, then…oh, THEN…

    And…no. No, you are absolutely right about gynecological implements. I always mean to bring this up with my doctor, but somehow I freeze up when it comes to that as soon as I get on that table. Gee, fancy that…

  7. Glenn Says:

    Anyone passing through London Bridge/Borough area in London should take a hour to find the ‘herb garret/old operating theatre’ where which has orginal herb drying loft and as well as an orginal 1800’s operating theatre- with the empasies on theatre! It and it’s amazing range of tools are often seen in tv and films. It’s a facinating place to vist as you can really see the points where they stopped guessing and figured out what they needed to do to stop killing patients!

  8. nadi Says:

    i had a discussion with my gyno at my last appointment about how they need to re-design the instruments used in gynecological exams, so i would agree!

    I wen’t to a medical museum in Vienna a few weeks ago. It was amazing the old instruments, the illustrations, the wax models…*sigh* everything

  9. Erin Says:

    Ugh, the skull saw made me cringe! Just the name is enough to do it to me. If I ever become a serial killer, I think I’ve decided on my signature modus operandi.

  10. John G Says:

    I once found a trunk of old surgical tools for sale in a Portland antique shop. The owner wanted a reasonable $150 for the whole thing. I would have bought it, except (a) I was/am too broke to drop $150 on antiques, and (b) what would I really do with a trunk full of bone saws, skull tongs, and assorted clamps, pliers, and blades? Besides scare the hell out of visitors, of course. My living quarters already look enough like a psychotic scavenger’s museum as it is.

  11. Ana Says:

    God, I saw these last night on whatssisname’s twitter link dump blog.

    Agreed about the gyno tools, made same comment to my boyfriend.
    Worse yet, I have vestibulitis, so you can imagine my delight at the exams …which I avoid.

    There’s a guy @ Vancouver [Canada] flea market that sells old lab/medical goods. There were GIGANTIC scissors, and some magnifying glasses that I wish I’d bought for jewelery making.

  12. Adrian Says:

    Oh god. The dark, scared laughter that came from me because of all the pre-1880’s instruments. No wonder the “insane psycho doctor” trope is so fixed in our collective cultural history!

  13. patty Says:

    antiques? my doctor still uses these instruments. :-))))

  14. tDIYm Says:

    I actually HAVE a couple of my grandfather’s surgical things from around this same era…nothing quite this creepy, tho.

  15. Anne Nonymus Says:

    It’s amazing how we can put a man on the moon, give a 70 year old an erection, but still can’t make childbirth and motherhood sacred and comfortable. That’s the only thing I’m really pissed at the bible for.