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Sibson type combined percussor and pleximeter, United Kingdom, 1855-1865

Sibson type combined percussor and pleximeter, United Kingdom, 1855-1865

Credits: National Railway Museum

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Leopold Auenbrugger (1722-1809) discovered the diagnostic value of percussion in Vienna in 1781. He tapped the chest or another body part and listened to the resonant quality of the sounds. When a healthy patient’s chest is tapped it produces a hollow sound. Fluid congestion or certain diseases alter the sound to a dull, flat thud. This is an example of a combined pleximeter and percussor. It was developed by Francis Sibson (1814-1876) in the 1850s. The ivory pleximeter was held on the skin. It was tapped with the hammer-like rubber-tipped percussor suspended within the instrument. The belief was this gave clearer sounds than using the fingers.

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Glossary: percussor

A small hammer, usually with soft rubber head, used to tap the body directly, in percussion of the chest or other part.

Glossary: pleximeter

A small, hard, elastic plate, made of ivory, bone, or rubber, placed in contact with body to receive a blow from a hammer or percussor.

Glossary: clinical diagnosis

A diagnosis given based on the signs and symptoms of a disease.