Presented is a rare example of a Pravaz syringe used for the injection of iron perchloride in the treatment of aneurysms.
This syringe was fabricated by Parisian surgical instrument maker Jean-Frédéric Benoît Charrière at the request of Doctor Charles-Gabriel Pravaz to treat aneurysms by means of direct percutaneous injection of iron perchloride. Pravaz discussed his experiments in a letter to Secretary M. Marjolin of La Société De Chirurgie De Paris in 1853.
“I believe that to arrive at a good result, it suffices to deposit in the aneurysmal tumor an element of solidification which serves as a nucleus for the aggregation of successive albuminous layers; for I have noticed that if a single drop of concentrated iron perchloride is dropped into an albumin solution, it soon forms around it species of stalagmites at least sixfold its volume, and gives a solid clot of which the diameter greatly exceeds that of the caliber of the larger artery, so that it cannot be dragged out of the sac (Pravaz, 1853, p. 531).”
Pravaz tested his method on various animals including rabbits, horses, and sheep, but never applied his technique to treat aneurysms in human subjects before his passing in June of 1853. Despite grim success rates and high-risk complications like arterial embolism, tissue necrosis, and the subsequent need for amputation, several practitioners adopted Pravaz’s procedure for treatment on human subjects, including French physician Joseph-Françoise Malgaigne.
“Intravenous injection of iron perchloride – this is the process devised by Pravaz for aneurysms, has been applied to varicose veins. An aqueous solution of iron perchloride of 15 to 30 degrés is used. A very small syringe is loaded, the plunger is moved by a screw, and the syringe is calibrated so that each half-turn of the screw expels a drop of liquid. The cannula, very fine and very elongated, may receive a small trocar which serves to introduce it into the varicose tumor. Once this has been introduced, the trocar is withdrawn, the cannula is adjusted to the body of the syringe, care is taken to compress the vein above and below the varicose vein, and the quantity of liquid deemed necessary is injected, approximately 4 to 5 drops (Malgaigne, 1874, p. 209).”
The first illustration of this syringe was published in La Maison Charrière’s 1862 surgical instrument catalogue. Other illustrations are found in an 1867 article in the Dictionnaire de Thérapeutique Médicale et Chirurgicale and in an 1896 article in La Presse Médicale.
The Pravaz syringe was a precursor to the first hypodermic syringe for narcotic injection in the treatment of neuralgia by Doctor Alexander Wood.
“Then came about a new method of treating aneurism, by introducing the acid solution of perchloride of iron. One day I happened to be using the ingenious instrument constructed by Mr. Ferguson of Giltspur Street, for the purpose of introducing the preparation into a naevus on the head of a child, when it occurred to me that this was the very instrument I had been so long looking for, and the very thing for introducing narcotic injections in cases of neuralgia (Wood, 1858, p. 722).”
Malgaigne, J. F. (1874). Injection intra-veineuse. Manuel de Médecine Opératoire (p. 12). Paris : Germer Baillière.
Marjolin, M. (1853, May 2). Anévrisme de l’artère sus- orbitaire guéri par l’emploi du perchlorure. Bulletin De La Société De Chirurgie De Paris, 3, 524-532.
Wood, A. (1858, August 28). Treatment of Neuralgic Pains by Narcotic Injections. The British Medical Journal, 2(28), 721-723.
- From the Lusignan syringe collection