King's College London
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Learning from Lister

Instrument case

Photograph of pocket instrument with three individual instruments displayed in front of the casePocket instrument case presented to Lister, 1868. Weston Education Centre, King’s College London.This case contains some of the instruments which would have been used by a surgeon of Lister’s time.

Lister did not innovate in this area, except for ensuring that his instruments were not septic (hospital diseases caused by infected instruments were common before his career). In fact, Lister was slow to acknowledge that the surrounding environment, including instruments, had to be aseptic. In the early stages of his career, antiseptic surgery focussed almost exclusively on the putrefaction of the wound itself.

Among the instruments in this case are a knife for opening abscesses, developed by Lister’s surgical mentor James Syme, and a urethral bougie, used for the gradual dilatation of fibrous structures.

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