|Silver tracheostomy tube.
A tracheotomy is an operation in which a hole is made in the airway where is passes through the neck. The opening, which may be permanent or temporary, is called a tracheostomy. (There, now you know the difference between tracheotomy and tracheostomy: One is the operation, the other is the result. To further confuse things, the hole itself is also known as a stoma.)
If you have a tracheostomy you generally need some kind of a tube to keep it open and allow air to flow smoothly. This one is made of solid silver, for reasons that seem obscure to me. It's not unusual, many of them were made this way, and so far as I can tell they are still in use, or at least were until quite recently. Silver seems like an odd choice of metal for medical uses given that it tarnishes so easily. I can see it now: "Jeeves! Come here will you, I'd like you to polish the silver this morning, and don't forget to do my tube while you're at it."
Perhaps they started using silver just because it's an easy metal to work with, and there were many silversmiths available who could construct the requires shapes, but I'm just guessing here. I even found a report in the literature of a silver locket being attached to a silver tracheostomy tube for cosmetic reasons. These days silicone and other plastics seem to be more commonly used, which sounds like a good thing to me: Soft silicone sure must be much more comfortable than a metal tube.
Several readers have pointed out that silver has anti-microbial effects, and may have been used to help prevent infections. This isn't completely unreasonable, though if solid silver metal really good for that reason why isn't it used more often in other medical devices?
I had this set for several weeks before I finally decided on the best way to photograph it. My goal was to get the best rotation video, not necessarily the best single view, so be sure to click the 360-frame or 72-frame turntable icon to see it rotating around a full circle.
That will also let you see the fact that one of the tubes has a little flap hanging in the end in such a way that air can go in, but not out. I immediately assumed this was some kind of torture device, but my medical correspondent Willis reports that it's actually used for people who have functional vocal cords they can breath out through, but for one reason or another they can't draw air back in that way. The flap allows them to breath in through the tube and out through their mouth. (Unless, of course, their head is at the wrong angle, or they are in space, in which case the flap will malfunction.)
Source: eBay seller kiaoradogs
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 23 March, 2007
Text Updated: 11 August, 2007
Sample Group: Medical