“If you don’t know where you’re coming from, you don’t know where you’re going.” – Dr. Bert J. (Hans) Davidson, M.D., Ph.D.
PHOTOS: Courtesy of the Southern California Medical Museum
While our Top Doctors issue highlights the region’s top medical talent, it also focuses on the great strides being made in the quality and delivery of the care we receive. However, a look back at some of the surgical implements and techniques of the past reveals just how far the practice of medicine, and the definition of quality care, has come.
At the Southern California Medical Museum, they’ve made it their mission to preserve medical instruments of the past (some dating back centuries). For information on these medical artifacts and procedures, we picked the brain of Dr. Bert J. (Hans) Davidson M.D., Ph.D., director of the Southern California Medical Museum, who was kind enough to share his expertise on the medical instruments below.
Amputations were a last resort and few doctors had any experience in the procedures. Early amputation was the accepted medical treatment for contaminated wounds with extensive damage or bone involvement. The risk in these injuries was gangrene, a progressive wound infection that would usually lead to the death of the patient without amputation. Anesthetics [such as chloroform and ether] rendered the patients unconscious. The surgeon had to operate quickly, usually in less than 15 minutes. Secondary hemorrhage was common and lethal.
To the left, we see three 19th century monaural (for one ear) stethoscopes, made of wood and ivory. The long one is called a “pauper” stethoscope, allowing the doctor to be further from the patient. The one to the far left is a pocket stethoscope that can be taken apart to be flat. On the bottom is the first binaural (for both ears) instrument. In the middle is a boxed French stethoscope for babies. It has two ways of listening to the heart and lungs, the “bell,” like all stethoscopes until that time, but also a membrane. Modern stethoscopes are all based on that design; there are electronic ones, but almost all doctors and nurses use a model that has not changed much for over the years.”
For more information on the Southern California Medical Museum, visit socalmedicalmuseum.org.