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The instruments of the bonesetter

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Orthopaedic surgeons use a variety of instruments to help correct, treat, and heal bone disease. The development of these instruments mirrors the history of orthopaedic surgery. The history of bonesetting, the treatment and replacement of joints, and of those who performed these techniques, appears to originate deep in antiquity. Changing ideas within medicine and surgery over the last 200 years have shaped the discovery and evolution of orthopaedic instruments and of the bonesetters themselves. Advances have led to the use of computers as instruments in the navigational guidance of arthroplasty surgery, the use of robotics, the development of cordless drills and improvements in the design of blades to cut bone. Yet some of the old instruments remain; plaster of Paris bandages, the Thomas Splint, Liston’s bonecutter, Gigli’s saw, bone nibblers and Macewan’s osteotomes are still in use.

This paper presents a historical review of bonesetters and examines how orthopaedic instruments have evolved from antiquity to the 21st century.

Correspondence should be sent to Miss S.-A. Phillips; e-mail: sally-anne.phillips@luht.scot.nhs.uk

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