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ID number:  BIRRC-M0150
Institution:  Research and Cultural Collections
Named collection:  Medical School Collection
Title / Object name:  Set of craniotomy tools (in bag)
Object type:  Medical instrument
Place made:  Birmingham
Date made:  Late nineteenth century
Materials:  Metal (steel?), wood, case possibly silk?
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Set of 5 antique craniotomy tools, in brown bag/fabric case (max length: 81cm; max width: 66.5cm).
1st tool - Professor Simpson's Perforator - (length: 31cm) has squeezable handle, with sharp end. Has engraved 'Mappin & Co, 121 New St.'
2nd tool - screw to be used in the handle of the 3rd tool - (length: 20.2cm) is of a screw type, and bears no sign of the maker
3rd tool - Dr Braxton Hicks's Improved Cephalotribe - (length: 39cm) is a large pair of forceps, with some ridging on the inner surface. It bears the engraving 'J Wood & Co., York', indicating a different place of origin to the other tools. The 2nd tool, the screw, was used in the handle, presumably to facilitate a smoother opening and closing of the instrument when in use.
4th tool - Blunt Hook and Crotchet (length: 27.5cm) has two hook-like ends. They bear a Mappin & Co engraving.
5th tool - Dr Murphy's Craniotomy Forceps (length: 33.8cm) is another pair of forceps, with more toothing on the ends. They bear the Mappin & Co engraving, but also, on the other handle, 'MURPHY'S CRANIOTOMY'

These tools were used for obstetric craniotomy, in order to assist the removal of a foetus which was proving difficult to be born, especially if the life of the mother was in danger. If the baby was not dead already, this process would certainly kill them - this is a destructive set of midwifery instruments rather than a delivery set. The tools (also known as cranioclasts) would be used to remove parts of the skull to make it easier to remove the foetus.
The set was owned by an Ansley(?) Line, a surgeon who worked in Dublin, Ireland (the tools were never used in England). The Irish diet of mostly potatoes often resulted in women having calcium deficiencies, leading to rickets or a contracted, narrower pelvis, so births of full-term, large or deformed babies were especially difficult.

The tools were passed to, but not used by, his son Arthur Line who worked as a surgeon at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham. Donated by Bryan Watson, Line's successor at his Birmingham GP practice.

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