When most people say “back in the day,” they’re referring to a better (or simpler) time. They often leave out, though, that “back in the day” there were some straight up terrifying things around as well. Medical advancements weren’t all that advanced, resulting in some truly awful things going down in the doctor’s office. Take these old-school surgical tools for example. They look like instruments of torture, but they were actually used in surgeries and examinations normally. (Life used to be very, very scary.)
1. Arrow Remover (1500s)
It is thought that this strange-looking tool was inserted into a wound in a contracted position. Then, the central shaft was used to grab an arrow. The blades were then expanded so that the arrow head wouldn’t rip out the flesh on its way out.
2. Bullet Extractor (1500s)
These extractors could reach bullets embedded deeply in a patient’s body. Pulling out a bullet was sometimes risky and could result in more injury, but was common practice.
3. Amputation Saw (1600s)
Some surgeons had decorated, fancy amputation/bone saws such as this… but sometimes the extra details and carvings were a breeding ground for bacteria.
4. Vaginal Speculum (1600s)
Specula have been used for thousands of years by doctors, mainly so that they could examine a woman’s vaginal area. This 17th century European example is ornate and intimidating, but is similar to the specula used today.
5. Amputation Knife (1700s)
These sharp knives were used for amputations during the 18th century. They were typically curved so that surgeons could cut through the skin and muscle before the bone was cut with a saw.
6. Lithotome (1740s-1830s)
In order to remove bladder stones, the bladder would need to be cut and doctors would use a lithotome to do it. The shaft contained a hidden blade that was inserted into the bladder and then released using a spring handle.
7. Tobacco Smoke Enema (1750s-1810s)
This kit would be used to infuse tobacco smoke into a patient’s rectum. It was used primarily the resuscitation of drowning victims. The warmth of the smoke was thought to promote respiration.
8. Circumcision Knife (1770s)
Ritual circumcision common, but tools like this sharp European knife from the 18th century make it seem like a brutal and archaic practice.
9. Artificial Leech (1800s)
Bloodletting was a popular treatment for a range of medical conditions. In 1840 the artificial leech was created and was used frequently in eye and ear surgery. The rotating blades would pierce the skin and the tube would suck up the patient’s blood like a syringe.
10. Cervical Dilator (1800s)
This could be used to dilate a woman’s cervix during labor. You could determine the amount of dilation with the measurement scale on the handle. Doctors stopped using these because they would often cause the cervix to tear.
11. Hemorrhoid Forceps (1800s)
To remove a hemorrhoid, these forceps were used to grasp it and apply pressure to stop the blood supply. As a result, the hemorrhoid would usually fall off.
12. Trephine (1800s)
The trephine basically was a hand-powered drill with a cylindrical blade, used to bore into the skull. The spike in the center would hold the instrument still while cutting.
13. Skull Saw (1830s-1860s)
To access the brain, this hand-cranked skull saw would be used to cut through the cranium.
14. Hernia Tool (1850s)
This tool was used after hernias were corrected. It would be inserted into the body near the affected area and left there for a short amount of time. The tool would help encourage the formation of scar tissue, holding the hernia in.
15. Tonsil Guillotine (1860s)
To remove tonsils, this tool was used. It’s like a small guillotine. The blades would slice off the infected tonsils, but would often cause hemorrhaging and would leave tonsil remnants in the throat.
16. Hysterotome/Metrotome (1860s-1890s)
This hysterotome (or metrotome) was used to amputate the cervix during a hysterectomy.
17. Ecraseur (1870s)
This tool was used to remove hemorrhoids, uterine tumors or ovarian tumors by severing them. The chain was looped over the mass and tightened using the ratchet, stopping the circulation of blood to the area.
18. Mouth Gag (1880s-1910s)
This wooden, screw-shaped mouth gag wasn’t used to silence patients. It would be inserted into an unconscious patient’s mouth to ensure their airway was open.
19. Scarificator (1910s-1920s)
Scarificators were used in bloodletting, to help draw out the blood. The spring-loaded blades in this device would cut the skin and then the device would be warmed to encourage blood flow.
20. Hirtz Compass (1915)
This compass could used to be locate bullets within a body, using trajectory formulas, so that they could be removed with precision.
You thought you were nervous about needles? These frightening instruments seriously take the cake (and an arm and a leg). Show people what life used to be like by sharing this article and leaving a comment below: