30+ Horrifying Medical Instruments that are no Longer in Use

The bionic eye, fecal transplant, 3d-printed organs, robot doctors, heart-saving hormone – we all are living in a modern world that our ancestors couldn’t have imagined. Technology is really chaining very fast, especially when it comes to the medical field. Scientists and researchers are continuously developing new methods to fight illness and daily health issues.

Today’s machines are not as freaky as compared to the past. So, it is easy for us to forget how hard even tiny problems could be in history. Today we have planned to show you some horrifying medical instruments that are thankfully no longer in use. These are so bizarre and terrifying, they should be used in horror or sci-fi movies. Brace yourself; the list (in no particular order) is going to show you how our ancestors suffered physical traumas.

31. Pressure Chamber

Pressure Chamber

This is Winston Churchill’s personal pressure chamber, designed to enable him to make high altitude (above 8,000 feet) flight safely. It contains ash trays, air circulation system and a telephone.

30. Blood Circulation Machine

Blood Circulation MachineImage credit: history of medicine

The old man sitting on a giant machine, which is used to simulate blood circulation in the legs.

29. Lithotomy Crutch

Lithotomy CrutchPhoto source: Science Museum London

This particular crutch was used on patient suffering from bladder stone. The only way to remove stones was surgery. Doctors put patients’ ankles in cuffs and placed their ankle by their ears. The stone would then be removed using another device.

28. Bergonic chair

Bergonic chairImage credit: flicker

The Bergonic chair was used in World War I, for giving general electric treatment for psychological effect, in psycho-neurotic cases. By the end of war, the British army had dealt with over 80,000 cases of shell shock.

27. Radioactive Therapy

Radioactive TherapyPhoto credit: Oak Ridge Associated Universities

This machine was a source of radioactive cesium-137, which was used to kill cancer infected tissues. The picture shows a therapy unit installed at the Oak Ridge hospital in 1955.

26. Measuring Brainwaves

Measuring BrainwavesImage source: getty

A machine (with 4 flexible rods attached to the brain to transmit data) for measuring brainwaves. It was designed and used in 1940.

25. Cobalt-60

Cobalt-60Image credit: Nepszeru Technika

The machine (designed by Dr. Harold Johns) uses Cobalt-60 radiation therapy for cancer treatment. It treated more than 6700 patients. This technology dubbed as “Cobalt Bomb” revolutionized cancer treatment and saved millions of lives.

24. Hernia Tool

Hernia Tool

A surgical tool from the 1850’s. It was used to restore the affected area after hernia was removed. It would be left inside the body for a week (or 10 days) to generate scar tissue which would help seal the hernia off.

23. Hirtz Compass

Hirtz Compass

Hirtz Compass was used in early 1900s, to determine where the bullets were exactly located in the body so that they could be removed with precision.

22. Bullet Extractor

Bullet Extractor

It was used in the 1500s to do exactly what the name suggests: extract bullet. It could reach bullet embedded deeply in the patient’s body. It had a screw tip which could be inserted into the wound and lengthened to pierce the bullet so that it could be pulled out of the body.

21. Sims-type Hysterotome


This type of Hysterotome was invented by an American gynecologist, James Marion Sims. It was used to amputate the cervix (by inserting into v*gina), a treatment of chronic inflammation.

20. Portable Respirator

Portable RespiratorImage source: getty

This machine was first introduced in the 1952, Denmark. It was used by the patients whose lungs were paralyzed. The oxygen was delivered via a rubber concertina reservoir bag, which was constantly compressed by an electric motor.

19. Cervical Dilator

Cervical Dilator

This tool was used to dilate the cervix during childbirth, induced abortion or gynecological surgery. They often caused the cervix to tear.

18. Optokinetic Drum

Optokinetic DrumImage source: getty

The machine was designed to study the reflex movement of the eyes and their association with visual illusion. The man in the image is Dr G. H. Byford wearing a contact lens with a miniature lamp cemented to the lens, at the RAF Institute of Aviation Medicine, Farnborough.

17. X-Ray Machine

X-Ray Machine - Horrifying Medical InstrumentsImage source: getty

This is a special X-Ray machine used to treat cancer in the mid-1950s. The image shows a physicist adjusting the beam path of the 2,000,000 volt deep therapy at the Francis Delafield Hospital, New York.

16. Spermatorrhea ring

Spermatorrhea Ring

Back in the Victorian era, people used to believe that masturbation or wet dream could induce retardation and blindness. To combat these issues, a few inventors came up with the device that neutralizes wang swelling. It contains a flexible metal band (outlined by spikes) that would discourage genital excitement.

15. Osteotome

OsteotomeImage credit: wikimedia

Osteotome was invented in 1830 by the German physician Bernhard Heine. The instrument looks like a small chainsaw. It was used for cutting or fixing bone (skull) and in orthopedic surgery and dental implantation.

14. Circumcision knife

Circumcision knifeImage credit: wikimedia

Circumcision (removal of the foreskin of the p*nis) is practiced across the world for cultural and religious reasons. It was designed in Europe in the late 1700s. It was also promoted for hygiene and health related reasons in some countries.

13. Scarificator


Scarificator was used in bloodletting (withdrawal of blood). It contains spring loaded blades that would cut into patient’s skin and then a glass cup would be applied over the bound to collect the blood.

12. Hemorrhoid Forceps

Hemorrhoid Forceps

It was used (in mid 1800s) to grasp a hemorrhoid between the blades and apply pressure to stop the blood supply, leaving the hemorrhoid to drop off.

11. Electric Bath

Electric BathImage credit: getty

There is a woman inside a machine known as “Electric bath” at the Light Care Institute, London, 1900. This was the ancestor to the sun-bed and used for different medical reasons.

Read: 11 Gadgets Designed For People With Disabilities

10. Electro-retinogram

Electro-retinogramImage credit: history of medicine

Electro-retinogram is an apparatus used to analyze the electric potential of the retina. The light sensitive cells, cons, rods and their connecting ganglion cells in the retina are observed. To do this, an electrode is placed on the cornea, and the information is displayed on the monitor (in the form of 2 waves).

9. Ivory Holt’s Divulsor

This instrument was used between 1840 and 1860. It was used on male patient when their urethra became too narrow to pass proper urine flow. It would be inserted through the tip of the p*nis and navigated to the required position. Then the handle was turned to separate the blades and dilate the urethra as certain as possible.

8. Fake Leech

Fake Leech

Yet another blood sucking instrument with sharp little blades. These blades would lacerate the skin and the blood would be stored in the tube.

7. Artificial Kidney Machine

Artificial kidney machine

This is the first artificial kidney (blood dialysis) machine developed by Willem Kolff in the Netherlands in the late 1930s. It was used to filter impure blood using a permeable cellophane membrane. 14 of the first 15 patients on whom Willem used this machine died. The first patient saved was a 67 year old woman and she lived for a further 7 years.

6. Civil War Dental Screw Forceps

Civil War Dental Screw Forceps

It was used to tap dental roots. The central telescopic screw extends and is held secure with the blades allowing the roots to be tapped. The instrument was completely made of steel and was used in Civil war period.

5. Tonsil Guillotine

Tonsil Guillotine

The instrument was used to remove tonsils in the late 1800’s. The doctors used it to reach the patient’s throat, pierce the tonsil and cut the tissue with guillotine blade.

4. V*ginal Washer

Vaginal Washer

You might have guessed this one by the name. It is used to clean the v*gina through a perforated water spraying tube and a spinning squeegee scraper. No need to say, the overall process was painful.

Read: 10 Popular Inventors Killed By Their Inventions

3. Trephine


It’s a surgical instrument with a cylindrical blade, designed to get into the patient’s skull. As you can see in the image, it is specially designed to obtain a cylindrical shape core of bone or for cutting out a circular piece of the cornea for eye surgery.

2. Pre-PET headgear

Pre-PET headgear

Pre-PET headgear was built in 1961 at Brookhaven National Laboratory to study the detection of small brain tumors. The patient was injected with radioactive material that gets absorbed by the tumor and the results are further analyzed by the machine. It led to more practical devices imaging different areas of the human brain.

1. Skull Saw

Skull saw

Recommended: 12 Weird Diseases That Science Failed To Explain

The instrument is designed to saw through different parts of the skull. It was used during 1831-1870. The chainsaw like blade is moved by rotating the handle in clockwise or anticlockwise direction. It was primarily used to remove fragments of brain in order to provide access for other tools.

Written by
Varun Kumar

I am a professional technology and business research analyst with more than a decade of experience in the field. My main areas of expertise include software technologies, business strategies, competitive analysis, and staying up-to-date with market trends.

I hold a Master's degree in computer science from GGSIPU University. If you'd like to learn more about my latest projects and insights, please don't hesitate to reach out to me via email at [email protected].

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