22 January 2006

Body Shop

Back in the day as a Private in the Army working at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany, I witnessed and particpated in a ton of medical procedures. Here are just some of the few things that stuck with me after my time there.

With these instruments, "highly trained" medical professionals such as myself, lol, will dice you, and get medieval on your ass.


Spinal snippers
Bunions are renegade bits of bone that grow into your flesh. Get a bunion on your foot and it’s no big deal. Sprout one on your spine and things get twitchy. To remove a spine bunion, surgeons turn to Kerrison rongeurs. LTC Neff, M.D., a spinal surgeon at BAMC, described the instrument to me as a “big nibbling tool that eats crescent shaped bone bits.” Once the surgeon finds the spur, he grasps it in the tool’s tiny jaws and pulls the trigger. Bunion, begone.

Erector set
It may look like a long, sinister meat thermometer, but when it comes to combating impotence, the Dilamezinsert is perhaps man’s best friend. A urologist inserts the device into your shaft and then slowly, steadily spreads its prongs a half inch apart. This creates a pathway into which he inserts a silicone implant that helps poor Peter stand proud.

Spread ‘em
The human rib cage provides some of the body’’s best armor, faithfully protecting the heart and lungs. During chest surgery, however, ribs are the surgeon’s biggest obstacle. To get by them, he has a choice of methods: cut ’em out or spread ’em apart. Using rib spreaders, he can wrench a 10- to 12-inch-wide gateway between two ribs that gives him ample room to muck around.

Nasal destroyer
These are, essentially, sophisticated nose pickers able to boldly go where no finger has gone before. When a sinus surgeon suspects there’s trouble brewing deep in Schnozland, cancerous tissue or a nasty infection, the nasal forceps get the call. The arm reaches into your nostril; when the surgeon finds the tissue he’s looking for, he grabs it in the three millimeter teeth and takes a bite.

Rear view
Consider the anus, a deep, dark place of mystery, and most of us prefer it that way. But it is a fact of life that there are times when light must be shed on the anus. Enter the proctologist (gently, please), whose job it is to illuminate and preserve all things anal. When duty calls, Dr. Sphincter inserts the long end of the cold stainless steel anoscope five inches into the back door. As he peers through the other end, he can increase his view by widening the cylindrical portion by an inch or more if you can’t resist cracking a proctologist joke.

Brain drain
Neurosurgeons have ingenious tools for getting into your head without messing with it. The cranial drill, for instance, automatically stops burrowing the instant it pierces the cranium. After drilling several minute holes in your nut, the neurosurgeon cuts from one to the next with a tiny saw. Once he’s connected the dots, he can remove a four inch section of skull, just like you’d take the first slice from a pie.

Vein-o
The longest vein in your body is, believe it or not, expendable. Called the saphenous vein, it runs the entire length of your leg; if the valves become congested, the vein gets swollen and painful. To fix the situation, a vascular surgeon uses his trusty vein strippers to simply extract the offending vein. He inserts the plastic wire into the saphenous vein through your foot, then pushes it up, up, up, until it comes out the other end, in your groin. Next he attaches a serrated head to the end of the wire and yanks, removing the wire and rolling it up like a garden hose; the vein slides out with it.

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