Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Stylish and Functional

I recently noticed that someone has listed a vintage operating fluoroscope on eBay. This head-mounted radiological appliance was made during the interwar years and allowed surgeons to x-ray their patients constantly during surgery--at the cost of massive radiation exposure to everyone in the operating theatre. In practice, the patient would be "illuminated" by an X-ray tube, while in order to simultaneously operate the surgeon could be afforded little or no shielding. Add to this the fact that fluoroscopes require relatively large amounts of X-rays to get satisfactory results, and the problems of the device become even more onerous.

The Patterson Operating Fluoroscope: X-Ray Glasses That Really Work

The fluoroscope is on a hinge, allowing it to swing out of view if necessary. A red lens included in the device keeps the surgeon's eyes adapted to the dark, ready to re-engage with the darkened interior of the leatherette-covered fluoroscope.

Fluoroscope in Use.

These devices seem useful, and remained in use from WWI until the 1950s, but died out in light of increasingly stringent X-ray exposure standards. In 1965, E.R.N. Grigg wrote: “The appliance is hopelessly obsolete by any standards of radiation protection”. ORAU has one of the fluoroscopes in its collection of antique radiology equipment. I wonder if modern imaging technology could produce an equivalent device with acceptable exposure levels...

6 comments:

DV8 2XL said...

Back in the late Fifties, early Sixties, the small department store in the village I live in had one of those shoe fitting x-ray machines. I would play with it every time we went to buy shoes, for me or other family members. No one gave a damn as we stuck our feet and hands into the box and gleefully irradiated ourselves.

Haven't got cancer yet.

Sovietologist said...

I saw one of the shoe-fitting fluoroscopes in a museum once. Belonging to a younger generation, the only kind of functional fluoroscope I've ever been exposed to is the modern kind with a CCD coupled to a computer display. Just don't make 'em like they used to, it seems...

Ashutosh said...

Off topic...but just wanted to let you know that the print edition of The Bulletin still seems to be 48$. I renewed mine today.

Sovietologist said...

Oh, I know a yearly subscription is $48... but the newsstand price was doubled to $12 in the past year (!). I had been reading it online, but now that costs the same as getting a subscription to the print edition. I suppose I'll probably just read it in the library now...

Ashutosh said...

I got scammed! The woman on the phone said that I was going to get the print edition from now on, and I get this month's issue and see that there's going to be no print edition from next issue onwards, only an online one! No more subscriptions after next year.

Sovietologist said...

Really? Well, that may end up being the end of the BAS. It's too bad, but honestly I think the magazine is a relic and can't let go of paradigms whose time has simply passed. Why, for instance, are they publishing people like Mycele Schneider and not talking to actual experts in Gen IV reactor design?