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 of the Royal College of Surgeons, London.

DEFINITION: A cicatrix is a scar resulting from formation and contraction of fibrous tissue in a wound. This typically resulted when limbs were amputated during the seventeenth century, as the preferred method required that a flap of skin remain after the limb had been removed. First known use: 1623. [Oxford English Dictionary]

DESCRIPTION [of amputation method which would result in formation of a cicatrix]: ‘Take your dismembering knife and with a steddy hand and good speed, cut off flesh, sinewes and all, to the bone around the member, which done, take a smaller incision knife and divide the panicle called the periosteon, from the bone, it is a tough thin skinne, covering all the bones of the boyd, also thrust your said incision knife betwixt your fossels or bones, cutting away whatsoever is to be found there with expedition…it were also very good that the saide party holding the member, the flesh and sinewes being cut asunder, should immediately draw or strip upward the flesh so much as he could, keeping his hold, that thereby the Sawe may come so much the neerer, which would occasion a quicker and better healing, the flesh being thereby made longer than the end of the bone’. [John Woodall, The Surgions Mate (1617), pp. 173-4]

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