no I’m not talking about the sexual practice of inserting a fist into a partner’s anus. fistulotomy is the name of the surgery undertaken to cure a fistula – a nasty condition I hope none of my readers suffer from. poor old louis XIV had one and it was a right royal pain in the arse. his surgeon, Charles Felix, nervous of cocking up the procedure, practised on lesser buttocks he uncovered at a local charity hospital. his weapon of choice was a bistoury


the king’s first operation involved two cuts with the bistoury plus eight with scissors and there were four more surgeries to follow. sycophantic couriers, anxious to share the king’s discomfort in convalesence, applied surgical dressings to their rear ends and imitated his majesty’s limp. is now a good time to remind you that this was pre-anaesthesia?

if you’re as fascinated by antique medical instruments as nursemyra is perhaps you might like to have a go at this quiz

I know I’ve probably turned a few stomachs with today’s historical medicine post, but please feel reassured if you ever get admitted to the gimcrack with a weeping fistula, nursemyra will ensure a ready supply of anaesthesia will always be close at hand


Published in: on May 11, 2008 at 11:00 am  Comments (22)  

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22 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. yes, louis’ sucessful bum refashioning went down in the annals of colo-rectal surgery.
    he was probably well-opiated.
    you look seriously good in red, nursemyra.

  2. oh dear, typo alert. successful…

  3. why thank you trixie. now you’ve made my cheeks rather pink 🙂

  4. where are my courier-minions to share my professional pain? they must scream, swear and attend daily happy-hour therapy. and be smokin’ hotties…

  5. have had to surf and find out more …. oh I wish I hadn’t!!!!

    sorry I am just going to have to go outside to SCREAM!!!! 🙂

    (p.s. 5/9 for the quiz)

  6. In medicine, a fistula (pl. fistulas or fistulae) is an abnormal connection or passageway between two epithelium-lined organs or vessels that normally do not connect.
    ….. and this applies to all kinds of things – fascinating. I don’t know what that 70’s is complaining about – GIRLIES!?! HUH!

  7. That is one wicked looking medical instrument. My butt clenches involuntarily in imagination of the pain.

  8. I will resist the urge to google myself to enlightenment.

  9. I got 7 out of 9 on the quiz (erred on 6 and 8).

    Great post, nm. I love old surgical instruments and tales of bygone medical practices.

    If you aren’t already aware of this site, allow me to introduce you. It’s the closest thing to a complete source of all things regarding the history of medicine.

    I’ve long been a fan of Morbid Anatomy. it’s one of my Top Three favourite sites and a source of constant inspiration. we share the same tastes tobymarx

    Excelsior! 🙂

  10. I always thought Count Fistula would be an awesome name for a rock band.

  11. I nearly passed out reading this one.

  12. We had an old lady come into the Library a while back who was doing research on fistulas… Nasty.

  13. A friend once told me that his mother woke up from anesthia during hemmoroid surgery…there’s a story just in that fact. Can you imagine waking up, kinda groggy with your butt in the air and a couple of medical folks back there looking at you in surprise? eek!

  14. Hmmmm. Now that I know better, I won’t use such a device to open a bottle of wine. 🙂

  15. Pour me another anaesthesia, honey, and make it a double.

  16. Is the bistoury history?
    God, I can only hope.
    Nasty looking implements, just nasty.

  17. The next time I’m at a dinner party with a bunch of drunk people I am so going to tell this story.

  18. Ewwwwww…

  19. Ewwwww? have you read any of my posts about circumcision? that’ll really make you go ewwwwww….

  20. May I suggest you put the “Do not scream” notice a little bit higher up?

  21. I can tell you from personal experience that a fistula is a pain in the arse. And I hope they didn’t use that thing on me when they fixed it.

  22. oh you poor thing. hope the boyfriend was around to kiss it better (figuratively speaking of course 🙂

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