Plaster Cast Shears

Today we have another interesting piece of medical equipment to take a look at, a pair of shears for removing plaster casts from injured troops:

These shears have a distinctive curve to them, with a small folding spring in the handles, which when extended forces the jaws apart but which can be folded back on itself to remove tension when the shears are being packed away:

This then allows the shears to be safely folded down with no risk of someone catching themselves on a sharp edge:

The distinctive curve of the shears allows them to cut along the length of a plaster cast, whilst the operator’s hand has enough space to squeeze them back and forth, which would not be possible with conventional straight scissors. The extreme length of the handles gives mechanical advantage, increasing the pressure at the jaws and allowing them crush the plaster more easily. To prevent cutting the flesh under the cast, the lower of the two blades has a protrusion to remove any sharp edges where the shears touch the skin:

The two halves of the shears are held together at the pivot point by a screw:

So the screw doesn’t work loose, the reverse side of it has been peened over to prevent it from undoing:

Sadly the maker’s mark on these shears is very faint, however the /|\ mark of military ownership is very obvious:

Setting broken bones in plaster has been a long established way of treating such fractures and the 1944 RAMC Training Pamphlet No 3 explains how this was done:

Many fractured limbs are encased in plaster-of-Paris, which forms a hard protective shell and prevents movement during long journeys over bumpy roads or rails. A shell of this kind is made from muslin bandages which have been impregnated with the plaster in powder form; after soaking in water the bandages are applied closely to the limb, and as it dries, the plaster sets hard.

It was discovered that plaster was useful for more than just broken bones, as recalled by nurse Nora Jones:

I remember when I was working as a nurse at the Royal Cardiff Infirmary. One morning I was woken up at 2am as there was a convoy of wounded soldiers coming in an hour later. There were convoys with wounded soldiers coming in all the time – they were brought off the boats and driven to the hospital and onto the wards. A lot of these soldiers had their wounds covered with plaster of Paris – they’d discovered that it was a good way of keeping wounds clean until they reached hospital. They put the mutilated arms and legs in the plaster of Paris and gave them penicillin – once the limbs were enclosed and the patient given penicillin this usually stopped any further infection, if already infected. If they survived the journey and got to hospital they usually did very well.

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