Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Horsehair as a Substitute for Wire (in sutures)

By Thomas Smith, Esq., Demonstrator of Anatomy St. Bartholomew's Hospital, and Assistant Surgeon to the Hospital for Sick Children

As a material for attaching the margins of the skin, and mucous membrane after circumcision, or other operations for phimosis, I have found horsehair most useful, having employed it both in children and adults. . . In the removal, the advantage of horsehair sutures over the wire is considerable, since, unlike wire, which after remaining a few days in a wound, stiffens into a metallic ring, horsehair, when cut just aside the knot, either retaining its original elasticity, springs open, or if it has been long soaked in the wound secretions, it becomes soft and pliable. I would recommend this suture for wounds of the eyelid and other parts of the face, and to the loose integuments of the scrotum and penis; since to all these parts I have either applied the suture myself with good effect, or I have seen it used by others at my suggestion.

For the purpose of suture, long white tail hairs are the best. Before being used they should be soaked for a minute or two in water, or they may be drawn once or twice through the moistened finger-ends. The suture may be fastened off in a double knot, but if the hair is stiff, a third knot if often required. It may be removed in the ordinary manner, seizing the knot with the forceps, and dividing the suture just aside of it. It is scarcely necessary to remark, that horsehair, as a suture, is not suitable for wounds where there is much tension between the edges.

Excerpted from an article appearing in the March 1866 issue of The Richmond Medical Journal, Vol. 1, No. 3, from where it had been reprinted from an issue of The Lancet.

PHOTO: Pocket surgical kit carried by surgeons during the Civil War


Just used horsehair to stitch a hen that had her thigh laid open by a dog. It is post four days and she is laying and while stiff free-ranging. The movie ol' yellow gave my daughter the idea and I thought why not since my other daughter had a horse fresh from a bath on the lead rope.

If the hen starts to crave oats or hay . . .

I recently read an old autobiography of a country doctor who stitched up a young lady's face after an accident using horse hair. (back in the 1830s)He claimed that the scar was barely noticeable years later. I did this exarch to see if it might be true. I guess it was.

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