Double duck-billed speculum

1871-1900 in London

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Speculum, vaginal, Sims, double duck-bill, metal, nickel plated, by Maw of London, late 19th century

American surgeon James Marion Sims (1813-33) devised this type of double duck-bill vaginal specula. Vaginal specula help diagnose and treat vaginal and uterine disorders. Sims designed the duck-bill shaped instrument for fistula repair operations. A fistula is a hole that forms between the vaginal wall and the bladder. It was often caused by traumatic childbirth. It could result in urinary incontinence if untreated. The speculum was made by London instrument maker S. Maw, Son and Thompson. Problems with vaginal specula include pain felt by the patient and how much light the physician has to perform an examination. The highly polished surface of the valves reflected some light. Specula examinations caused controversy in the 1800s over male doctors performing such an intimate examination on women.

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Science Museum: Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries

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Clinical Diagnosis
Object Number:
  • furnishing and equipment
  • tools & equipment
  • medical instrument
Loan, Wellcome Trust

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