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Automatic lancet, cased, Europe, 1801-1851

Lancets were used in bloodletting, a practice once carried out to treat a wide range of diseases and medical conditions. This type of lancet works by the blade being swiftly released to cut into a vein by means of an automatic spring mechanism. Much depended on the skill and experience of the operator in determining the depth of the cut. The main body of the lancet is made of brass, but the double-sided blade is made of a stronger, finer metal. It is likely that this lancet would have been used on a number of patients without any effective form of sterilisation.

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Glossary: automatic lancet

A surgical instrument of various forms, commonly sharp-pointed and double-edged, used in venesection, and in opening abscesses, etc,which uses a spring mechanism instead of human force.

Glossary: bloodletting

Puncturing a vein in order to withdraw blood. A popular medical practice for over two thousand years. Bloodletting often involved withdrawing large quantities of blood in the belief that this would cure or prevent many illnesses and diseases. The practice has been abandoned for all but a few very specific conditions.