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O'Dwyer intubation set for children

Diphtheria is a potentially fatal disease which particularly affects children. It causes a membrane to grow over tissues in the mouth and in severe cases into the lungs. Without intervention, breathing becomes difficult and eventually the child will suffocate. In 1882, Joseph O’Dwyer (1841-1898), an American physician, became the first person to successfully intubate children with diphtheria – intubation in this context being a means of surgically keeping the airway open to prevent suffocation. O’Dwyer’s method was to place a tube down the larynx to allow the patient to breathe. The tubes became known as O’Dwyer tubes and are shown here in a range of sizes. The kit also contains a pair of forceps and a hook to place and remove the tubes, which took skill and nerve on the part of the physician. The mouth gag to keep the mouth open while the tubes were placed is missing. It was a simple idea, but one that provided an effective and important invention.

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Glossary: intubation

The insertion of a tube into a body canal or hollow organ, as into the trachea or stomach

Glossary: mouth gag

device for preventing the mouth from being closed which permits the passage of the hand or an easily damaged piece of equipment such as a rubber stomach tube.

Glossary: forceps

A pliers-like medical instrument used to grasp tissue.

Glossary: diphtheria

An acute highly contagious infection, generally affecting the throat but occasionally other mucous membranes and the skin. Diphtheria has been largely eradicated due to world-wide vaccination efforts.

Glossary: intubation set

set of instruments used for intubation - the placement of a tube into an external orafice of the body.