Combination saw and forceps used in trephination, England, 1812-1815
Thomas Machell hoped that this invention, which he called the ‘annular saw’, would combine all the instruments required for trephination into one single device. The skull is sliced by the circular saw blade, which could cut to a range of depths and is operated by the handle. The forceps are operated by the screw. Unfortunately for Machell, it was found that separate tools could be used to perform the operation more efficiently and so his instrument never enjoyed widespread use. Thomas Machell’s account of his saw can be found in 'The Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal', July 1815.
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Glossary: surgical saw
Cutting tools having thin, flat metal blades, bands, or stiff plates with cutting teeth along the edges used in surgery and for procedures such as trephination.
The removal of a circular piece of the top of the head. This is done using a sharp implement or circular saw, and was common in Neolithic times. It is thought that the aim was to release evil demons or spirits from the body in the hope this would cure the person of their illness.