Throughout time, whenever there was the sickly, the cure was not too far behind. Seeming to mean well, bizarre contraptions were built, claiming to aid the ailing patients. A little pseudoscience and quackery were also thrown in the mix. Whether it was due to lack of research back then, or the opportunists were out to make a quick buck – the field of medicine had certainly witnessed some strange devices.

Here are five such medical devices that have had a part in history:

1. Trephine

Thousands of years ago, if someone behaved abnormally and was deemed possessed by evil spirits – a circular hole would be made in their skull by a trephine. The hole was said to be an outlet for the evil spirits within the patient to escape so normalcy and sanity could be restored.

A 7,000-year-old Neolithic trepanned skull found in Northern Africa, where the patient did not survive the procedure. Photo credit: Ancient Origins
A 7,000-year-old Neolithic trepanned skull found in Northern Africa, where the patient did not survive the procedure. Photo credit: Ancient Origins

Trepanation—the procedure of boring the hole to expose the dura mater—had been traced all the way back to the Neolithic times in cave paintings. The cut-out piece of skull was then worn around the neck as a talisman to ward off further evil possession.

It was also said to relieve migraines and epileptic seizures. To date, voluntary trepanation is still being done, with claims of the procedure increases blood flow and cures depression, along with other mental illnesses. Nonetheless, these claims are not supported – and as it had in the past, often led to infections and death.

2. Electrotherapeutic cage

The word cage is not necessarily synonymous with the word therapeutic. However, back in the early 1900s in France, when the electrotherapeutic cage was the contraption of choice for treating mentally ill patients – such syntax was conveniently overlooked.

A Tesla coil zapped electric currents through the metal cage while the patient benefitted from the electrotherapy. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
A Tesla coil zapped electric currents through the metal cage while the patient benefitted from the electrotherapy. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

In the Victorian era where quackery was rampant, electrotherapy was a rising medical field. Patients would sit in the cage and high-frequency electric currents would pass through the auto-conduction electrotherapeutic cage.

It was perfectly safe for the patient, not having felt anything – except for maybe a warm sensation. However, whether it did anything to alleviate the mental illness was also questionable.

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3. Smokey Sue



Smokey Sue is a cute 36cm doll with a mop of blond hair and lips permanently pursed to take a puff. It was not intended to cure any ailment, but was designed in the 1990s to visually educate the public about the effects of smoking on the lungs.

When the bulb is squeezed, Sue will smoke the cigarette and the tar build-up will deposit into her lungs, turning the water in the jar into disgusting brown colour.

For added effect and for pregnancy education, Sue’s “lungs” can be replaced with a helpless 7-month-old foetus model, to illustrate the damaging effects of smoking during pregnancy. The poor foetus is powerless against the assault of the tar from Sue’s smoking, with its clear surrounding turning into the same mucky colour.

Among the effects of smoking during pregnancy is the increased risk of miscarriage, cleft palate and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

4. Civil War medical kit

Amputation kit: Doctors who served in the Civil War were proficient in amputations due to the high number of soldiers needing care. Photo credit: Civil War Virtual Museum
Amputation kit: Doctors who served in the Civil War were proficient in amputations due to the high number of soldiers needing care. Photo credit: Civil War Virtual Museum

During the era of the Civil War, roughly 60,000 amputations had been carried out on the battlefield. That was a whopping three-quarter of the total surgeries that took place.

Soldiers were dying left and right and it was highly valued that the injured limb be amputated to save from infection. Thus, doctors during the war were equipped with medical kits that held various crude instruments for carrying out the job.

This includes surgical scalpel, straight forceps for extracting bullets, a large amputation saw, curved scissors for cutting tissue, tourniquet to compress the arteries above the cut during amputations, a double-edged knife called the catlin and bone brush to dust off bone dust from the site.

5. Radiation-infused drinking water

An advertisement for the “Revigator”, recommending six glasses of radon water for optimal health. Photo credit: Boing Boing
An advertisement for the “Revigator”, recommending six glasses of radon water for optimal health. Photo credit: Boing Boing

Today, the mere mention of the word radiation can send the other person running in the opposite direction. A century ago, however, people were embracing radiation – especially in their drinking water.

Radiation had just been discovered at the time, and so had the healing wonders of hot springs, which scientists found were because of radon gas that had permeated to the surface and into the hot springs. Two and two were put together and people wanted radiation in their lives. The next best step was to have radiation-infused drinking water and getting in as much of that radioactive goodness.

Bottled radon water was born, only to find out that radon had a half-life of less than four days – which meant it would be gone before it reaches the consumer. Entered specially manufactured water filters, that were lined to keep the radiation in and potent. Names such as “Revigator”, “Radithor” and “Radione” were the big players then. MIMS


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Sources:
http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/the-strangest-and-most-terrifying-medical-devices-throughout-history/all/
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