Going to the doctor nowadays might seem daunting, but it's nothing compared to what medicine was like centuries ago. Scary ancient medical devices range from vaguely-helpful-but-not-worth-the-risk to things that actually made your sickness worse. Some of them could even be deadly. Possibly most frightening, these dangerous ancient medical devices were completely accepted as the pinnacle of modern medicine at the time. That's bound yo make you feel at least a little thankful for the advances we've made today.
That being, diseases of yesteryear weren't exactly well understood. The vapors were thought to be real, your humors had to be treated, and evil spirits were considered a cause of illness. It's no wonder some of these scary old medicines seem so shocking to us today.
So, if you feel like being a little morbid and historic, delve into horrifying ancient medicine. There are some pretty gruesome medical devices on here, so let's hope you have a strong stomach.
Trepanning has been around for thousands of years, and is used by cultures around the world. The ancient Greeks did it, the Aztecs did it, and, shockingly, this practice can still be found around the world today. It consists of making a hole in the skull, for medical or religious reasons. Some cultures thought this would release demons, others did it to relieve cranial pressure, or increase intelligence.
No device used for trepanation is pretty. Many look like cookie cutters or blunt knives. As to how dangerous it was? No real antiseptic, no real anesthesia, and no real sterilization of instruments that are literally taking apart your skull. You do the math.
Nothing about the lithotome caché is comfortable. The 18th century French device was used to remove kidney stones, a process during which a medical practitioner inserted a metal rod in your urethra as a catheter. Then, the doctor would make an incision directly into the membranous urethra, and insert the lithotome caché, within which were concealed blades. From the membranous urethra, the lithotome caché moves into the bladder, where it divides the neck of the bladder and prostate via a lever. Once the device was in place, forceps were used to remove the stone.
Here's one for the boys. In the 1800s, if you were worried about nocturnal emissions or getting awkward boners in public, there was an alternative to uncomfortably crossing your legs. You could wear a spermatorrhea ring. These devices consisted of an adjustable inner metal ring and an outer ring of jagged teeth, which fit around your peen. The idea was, if you stayed soft, no harm would come to you. If you got hard, those teeth would bite your engorged beast. Nom nom nom.
The tongue écraseur might make you shudder. Let's say you have a tumor on your tongue or an infected portion of your tongue, and it's the early 1800s. Well, the good news is, it's treatable. The bad news is, someone's gonna cut off part of your tongue in a pretty terrifying way, using a tongue écraseur. The device consists of a chain within a metal tube, a looped portion of which protrudes from the end of the tube. This loop is placed around the infected part of the tongue and tightened until is slices away the malady. Enjoy the infection and permanent speech impediment.
If you have a weak stomach, you may want to skip this one. Before caesarian sections were an option, due to anesthetic restraints, doctors had to make the choice between a fetus's life and a mother's. The choice was usually to save the mother. If the fetus was dead, medical practitioners inserted a metal rod with a sharp end, like a saw. They then cut up the fetus to remove it. If the fetus was near death, and would kill the mother upon removal, doctors used a fetal destructor to cut off the head. This was viewed as a humane option. Of course, one wrong move, and a mother could bleed out pretty easily.
The very concept of a vaginal washer is absurd. Lawson's Vaginal Washer was invented around 1900, and was a rather distressing device in concept, even if it's supposed to be for hygiene. You put the apparatus in your vagina, and it pumps a jet of water in. Then, squeegees rotate to clean out the inside of the vag. It's kind of like a mini car wash you insert in your junk. The device (which, surprise surprise, was invented by a man) has several key design flaws, including the fact that vaginas are self-cleaning. Also putting anything up there that rotates and sprays water is likely to be more harmful than helpful.
The Scarificator and Other Bloodletting Devices
For centuries, many cultures believed bloodletting was a cure-all. Leeches were a common means of doing this, as were small knives or similar instruments used to make incisions in the skin. There was also the horror known as the Scarificator. In the 17th century, the device consisted of spring-loaded blades with depth control. When switched on, all blades sprung out at once, making multiple cuts, allowing for an efficient bleed. As you might expect from a device of this nature, the Sacrificator was responsible for scars, over-bleeding, and infection. Perhaps more frightening, they were used as recently as the early 1900s.
The Bow Drill
Dentistry has come a long way since the days of the Aztecs, but even those ancient Mezoamericans knew dental health was important, and they had to get rid of cavities and drill out infections. They, along with the Inca and Maya, did this with a bow drill.
Bow drills work like this: attach a metal tip to a stick, then loop string around the stick, and attach the string to a bow. Move the bow back and forth to make the spiked stick spin. Aztec, Incan, and Mayan dentists used such a device to drill teeth. Unfortunately, infections and other complications from such procedures using these drills could easily be deadly.