From the Dissection Room: Smallpox

The lesions from these two specimens are from an early stage of smallpox in 1776. The disease is likely to have been contracted in utero. From the Hunterian Collection, Royal College of Surgeons, London. DEFINITION: Smallpox is an acute contagious disease caused by variola virus, a member of the orthopoxvirus family. Smallpox, which is believed […]

From the Dissection Room: The Two-Headed Boy of Bengal

The skull of a young boy from Bengal with a second imperfect skull attached to its anterior fontanelle, 1783. From the Royal College of Surgeons, London.  DEFINITION: Craniopagus parasiticus is a medical condition in which a parasitic twin head with an undeveloped (or underdeveloped) body is attached to the head of a developed twin. [Wikipedia] DESCRIPTION: ‘The child was […]

From the Dissection Room: Diseased Penis of Executed Criminal

Anterior part of penis with gonorrhea belonging to George Robertson at the time of his execution, 1753. Dissected by John Hunter. Specimen from the Royal College of Surgeons, London.  DEFINITION: Gonorrhea (also colloquially known as the clap) is a common sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. The usual symptoms in men are burning with urination and penile discharge. […]

From the Dissection Room: Broken Hearts (Myocardial Infarction)

A portion of the left ventricle of a woman’s heart showing the damage caused by myocardial infarction with evidence of superficial pericarditis. It was taken at the post-mortem of a female patient in 1765. Specimen from the Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons, London. DEFINITION: Myocardial infarction (MI) or acute myocardial infarction (AMI), commonly known as […]

From the Dissection Room: Cicatrix from Leg Amputation

The healing stump-end of an amputated leg, c. 1760-93. The new tissue (cicatrix) is nearly formed here, but the muscles surrounding the amputation sore have contracted to produce a ‘conical’ shaped stump, with the bones of the leg projecting beyond the skin. This would have reduced the probability of a complete heal. Specimen from the Hunterian Museum […]

From the Dissection Room: Inguinal Hernia

Eighteenth-century specimen showing an inguinal hernia, located in the groin. The preparation shows a contraction within the hernia which resulted in necrosis of part of its contents. DEFINITION: An inguinal hernia (pronounced /ˈɪŋɡwɨnəl ˈhɜrniə/) is a protrusion of abdominal-cavity contents through the inguinal canal. They are very common (lifetime risk 27% for men, 3% for women), and their repair […]

From the Dissection Room: Neurofibromatosis

A female skull dating from 1829 with the bony skeleton of a large facial tumour (possibly caused by neurofibromatosis) involving the right side of the face. The tumour arose in the right antrum, and during five years’ growth destroyed the right malar bone, the palate, and the maxilla. Specimen from the Hunterian Museum of the […]

From the Dissection Room: Tuberculosis

Eighteenth-century specimen of a larynx and trachea showing changes consistent with tuberculosis from the Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons, London. DEFINITION: Tuberculosis or TB (short for tubercles bacillus) is a common and often deadly infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis in humans. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs […]

From the Dissection Room: Hydrocephalus

Eighteenth-century specimen of 25 year-old man suffering from hydrocephalus from the Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons, London. DEFINITION: Hydrocephalus, (pronounced /ˌhaɪdrɵˈsɛfələs/), also known as ‘water on the brain’, is a medical condition in which there is an abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the ventricles, or cavities, of the brain. This may cause increased intracranial pressure […]