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Finger saw, Europe, 1801-1900

Finger saw, Europe, 1801-1900

Credits: Science Museum

This small steel-bladed saw, measuring just less than 13 cm, was used during amputation of the finger. Surgery may have been required due to illness, injury or infection, such as gangrene. Unfortunately for the patients, this saw has an ivory handle, making it difficult to clean properly and providing a good environment in which germs could thrive. Until the introduction of anaesthetics in the 1840s and 1850s, surgical amputation was something of a last resort and was performed with no, or very limited, pain relief.

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Glossary: amputation saw

Saw used for amputation. These tend to be instruments from the past, and were in common usage from c. 1500-1940 in Europe.

Glossary: anaesthetic

An agent that causes insensitivity to pain. Applied to either the whole body (general anaesthetic) or a particular area or region (local anaesthetic).

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: gas gangrene

Death and decay of wound tissue infected by a soil-based bacteria. Toxins produced by the bacterium cause decay of connective tissue and the generation of gas.