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Surgical instrument set, RAMC military issue, London, England, 1917

The set contains three trays full of surgical instruments all made from nickel-plated steel and each secured in a nickel-plated steel tray. Trays prevent the instruments touching each other and so help to avoid cross contamination. The nickel plating provides a protective layer for the instruments. The set was issued to the Royal Army Medical Corps of the British Army in 1917 (during the First World War). It contains all the instruments that may have been needed on the battlefield or in a field hospital, including amputation saws, different types of artery forceps, a double probang, scalpels and a Petit-type screw tourniquet.

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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: probang

A long, slender, flexible rod having a tuft or sponge at the end, used to remove foreign bodies from or apply medication to the larynx or asophagus

Glossary: sterilisation

To make an object free of live bacteria or other micro-organisms. Usually achieved by heat or chemical means.

Glossary: field hospital

A temporary hospital set up near a combat zone to provide emergency care for the wounded.

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.