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Kollmann-type urethral dilator, London, England, 1901-1915

Kollman’s urethral dilator is used to open up a urethra that may have become closed and blocked due to disease – a condition known medically as a stricture. Strictures are caused by diseases such as gonorrhoea. The end of the instrument is inserted into the urethra and opened up. The treatment would have been painful but was performed under local anaesthetic. The instrument is known as an ‘umbrella’ due to its shape and would be used in hospitals by surgeons specialising in urology. The instrument was invented in the 1800s by the German urologist Arthur Kollman.

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    Glossary: urethral dilator

    instrument used the expand the urethra caused by disease, especially sexually transmitted disease

    Glossary: gonorrhoea

    A sexually transmitted infection that affects the genital membranes of either sex. Symptoms include a yellowish discharge from the genitals.

    Glossary: local anaesthetic

    A drug that reduces or removes sensations from one area of the body.

    Glossary: dilator

    An instrument for expanding something or a part of something. In surgery this is often a passageway or an organ.