The Chainsaw Was First Invented for Use as a Surgical Instrument for Childbirth

Yes, you read that right. A chainsaw was used to help deliver babies.

Photo of an osteotome developed by Bernhard Heine | Images credit: Orthopädische Universitätsklinik Frankfurt | Public Domain

What is a symphysiotomy?

Back in the 14th century, a French doctor called Severin Pineau got his hands on the corpse of a hanged pregnant woman. He cut her open to learn more about pregnancy’s anatomy, and he discovered something called a “diastasis symphysis pubis,” which is medical talk for a separated pelvic bone. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes for Health, some form of diastasis symphysis pubis occurs in one in four women. In pregnancy, however, it can be seen in 1 in 300 or 1 in 30,000 pregnant people, depending on various factors.

A medical drawing that illustrates the parts of pelvic bones including the pubic symphisis in the center, which is what the doctors cut to separate the bones.
A medical drawing that illustrates the parts of pelvic bones including the pubic symphisis in the center, which is what the doctors cut to separate the bones.
The pubic symphysis is shown in black (no. 5) and is the area of the pubic bones that doctors would use the chainsaw to cut. Once this was cut, the bones could separate and make more space for a baby to be born. Image credit: Wikipedia, Creative Commons License
Patient in a symphysiotomy hammock after surgery, 1907.
Patient in a symphysiotomy hammock after surgery, 1907.
Patient in a symphysiotomy hammock after surgery, 1907 | Image rights: Public Domain
A blue background with six figures of osteotomes shown in horizontal positions. They look like long, thin, metal tubes with bevelled edges.
A blue background with six figures of osteotomes shown in horizontal positions. They look like long, thin, metal tubes with bevelled edges.
Dental osteotomes used for dental implants. | Public Domain image

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