Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Christmas 2012: Yesterday’s World

Surgical thimbles

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 17 December 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e8447

Re: Surgical thimbles

The recent article about thimbles was both informative and of interest to a diverse group of people. Namely those interested in the history of medicine and those interested in thimbles, sadly two groups who rarely intersect.

Whilst the Article was well researched it belittled the role of the thimble in ophthalmology. The article includes a picture of an ophthalmic thimble but states it may be used to aid lid eversion, but sees little use in regular practice. This is true in part as many will know the premier tool to aid lid eversion is actually the humble paperclip (1) (which has also found many uses throughout the medical field (2)). However the tool is incorrectly identified as in fact it is a scleral indenter used daily in many ophthalmology departments to aid indirect ophthalmoscopy. The indenter is essential for effective viewing of the peripheral retina in the search for retinal breaks.

Whilst the role of the thimble in ophthalmology was glossed over in the article, it may in fact be one of the remaining specialities where thimbles still see regular daily use.

1 Elkington AR, Khaw PT. ABC of Eyes: The red eye. British Medical Journal (Clin Res Ed) 1988, 296(6638): 1720-1724

2 Seaberg DC, Angelos WJ and Paris PM. Treatment of subungal hematomas with nail trephination: A prospective study. The American Journal of Emergency Medicine; 1991, 9(3): 209-210

Competing interests: No competing interests

23 December 2012
David Dunleavy
Speciality Trainee Ophthalmology
Hull and East Yorkshire Eye Hospital
Fountain street, Hull