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Amputation set, Europe, 1891-1910

Made from nickel and chrome plated steel, this set of surgical instruments includes a large amputation saw, amputation knives and hooks to remove blood clots. The instruments are set out in two trays, all of which can be easily sterilised in boiling water. The set was made after aseptic and antiseptic surgical techniques had come into common practice. Prior to that, instruments were often highly decorated and made of materials that ensured that they were almost impossible to clean thoroughly.

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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: 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: antiseptic

A chemical that destroys or holds back the growth of bacteria and harmful micro-organisms. It can be used to cleanse skin wounds and treat some internal infections if it is sufficiently non-toxic.

Glossary: aseptic

Free from bacterial contamination; surgically sterile or sterilized.