Seton Needle (From the Collection #3)

The Story

Seton needles first became popular in the 15th century as a means of producing counter-irritation. This approach to medical treatment believes that the creation of a superficial irritation on the body, through such means as cupping, blistering, or the use of seton needles, will distract the body from other irritations, reducing the primary sensation of pain and enabling the body to heal.

Irritation is produced when the seton is passed through the skin and underlying tissues, drawing with it a bristle or silk suture laced through the proximal eye of the needle. (The name seton derives from the word seta meaning bristle). Such threads were left protruding from the puncture and exit sites. They were moved back and forth daily to irritate the area and cause the discharge of purulent matter.

The seton needle depicted here is flat, a style that developed in the late 18th century. It is protected by two tortoiseshell leaves.

The use of seton needles fell out of favour by the late 1870s, likely in connection with the increased acceptance of germ theory.

The Specs

ACCESSION # (Web Link):1986.6.8
Object Name:Seton Needle
Manufacturer (Country): Unknown (Unknown)
Date Made:Circa 1830-1870
MESH Code:Needles
Suture Techniques

Additional Images

About “From the Collection”

“From the Collection” was a project originally published in 2010 to the Museum of Health Care’s website by former Curator Paul Robertson, with the goal being to highlight some the Museum’s most unique items that might be missed in our collection. Each artifact is presented as a bite-sized story, related information, and a link to it’s fully detailed entry on our free online digital catalogue!

Posts in the “From the Collection” series were originally created with support from Funded by the Ontario Museums and Technology Fund. The support of the Government of Ontario, through the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, is acknowledged.


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