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Steel and ivory amputation set, London, England, 1866-1871

This surgical instrument set was designed to be used exclusively for amputations. The case is decorated with a mahogany veneer and brass inlay. The instruments are made from steel engraved with a swirling design and have ivory handles, which are textured for improved grip. The instruments included are scalpels, Lüer artery forceps, amputation knives and saws, bone forceps, dressing scissors and Petit screw-type tourniquets. Even the metal screws of the tourniquets are engraved with a pattern. This surgical instrument set won a gold medal for its makers, Arnold & Sons, at the London Exhibition in 1871 and was probably made to demonstrate their skill and craftsmanship.

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    Techniques and Technologies:


    Glossary: bone forceps

    forceps used to seize or remove fragments of bone

    Glossary: surgical instrument set

    Set of instruments to be used for surgery. A physician would often build up their own collection of favoured tools in order to feel as comfortable as possible when carrying out surgery.

    Glossary: artery forceps

    forceps are a two-bladed instrument with a handle for compressing or grasping tissues in surgical operations, and for handling sterile dressings, etc. Artery forceps are for specifically grasping and compressing an artery.

    Glossary: amputation

    Removal of part of, or a whole limb by surgery. Used to control pain or the spread of disease in the affected limb.

    Glossary: scalpel

    A small thin sharp blade used by surgeons.

    Glossary: tourniquet

    Designed to compress the blood vessels of a limb. It consists of a bandage, pad and screw. By varying the tightness of the tourniquet, it is possible to control the circulation of blood for a short time.