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Double duck-billed speculum, London, England, 1871-1900

American surgeon James Marion Sims (1813-33) devised this type of double duck-bill vaginal specula. Vaginal specula help diagnose and treat vaginal and uterine disorders. Sims designed the duck-bill shaped instrument for fistula repair operations. A fistula is a hole that forms between the vaginal wall and the bladder. It was often caused by traumatic childbirth. It could result in urinary incontinence if untreated. The speculum was made by London instrument maker S. Maw, Son and Thompson. Problems with vaginal specula include pain felt by the patient and how much light the physician has to perform an examination. The highly polished surface of the valves reflected some light. Specula examinations caused controversy in the 1800s over male doctors performing such an intimate examination on women.

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Related Themes and Topics



Glossary: gynaecology

A branch of medicine dealing with the treatment of disorders affecting the female reproductive system.

Glossary: speculum

Instrument for dilating certain passages of the body, and throwing light within them, thus facilitating examination or surgical operations; Types incluse ear, nasal, vaginal, anal or rectal