The Chirurgeon’s Box: The Falciform Amputation Knife

Many keen observers have noted the curved knife pictured at the top of this website and have enquired about this oddly shaped tool. This, dear reader, is a falciform amputation knife. It was the popular tool of choice by 18th-century surgeons who preferred to cut through the skin and muscle before amputating the bone. To do this, the surgeon would take the falciform knife, hook it around the injured or infected limb, and cut in a circle to separate the flesh and muscle from the bone. After this had been completed, the surgeon would then use a surgical saw to cut off the remaining appendage. A good surgeon could do all this in under 2 minutes. Unfortunately, very few people survived such trauma.

By the 19th century, this technique had fallen from fashion as surgeons opted to use a straight-edged knife which would allow a flap of skin to remain after the limb had been removed.  That skin would then be used to cover the stump, providing protection to what would otherwise have been an open wound.

This particular example was made in Germany and can be viewed at the London Science Museum.

By |2011-01-01T12:56:23+00:00January 1st, 2011|The Chirurgeon's Box|1 Comment

The Chirurgeon’s Box: The Clockwork Saw

Although the clockwork saw dates from the 19th century, I couldn’t resist including a blurb about it here as it seems to me the very thing from which horror movies are made.

The English surgeon, WHB Winchester (1816-1901), designed an amputation saw which worked using a self-winding mechanism. Unfortunately, the saw was difficult to control and lacked the precision of other amputation devices. Because of its unpredictable nature, the saw was just as likely to remove the assistant’s fingers as it was to remove the patient’s limb. It was cumbersome and awkward–certainly not an instrument a surgeon would want to use when speed was crucial to the conscious patient awaiting surgery.

Fortunately for Winchester’s patients (as well as his assistants), the clockwork saw never made it past the prototype phase. Nevertheless, should you wish to see this terrifying instrument up close and personal–without risking life and limb–you can visit it at the Hunterian Museum in London.

By |2010-09-23T09:35:15+00:00September 23rd, 2010|The Chirurgeon's Box|0 Comments