By the 1860's most Surgeons knew that a tourniquet was the preferred method to stop major bleeding and prevent exsanguniation (bleeding out.) They also knew that closing up a bullet wound by cauterizing it was a bad idea. When performing surgery, including amputation and excision, Civil War surgeons used ligatures to tie off major blood vessels. Cauterization may have been used on smaller blood vessels, but, during surgery, arteries and veins were tied off, using silk thread ligatures.
Cauterization is a medical technique of burning a part of the body to remove or close off a part of it. Cautery devices were used during the Civil War to "burn out" infected tissue and gangrene; to remove small tumors; to stop minor bleeding; in the treatment of venereal disease (please don't ask); and for other non-surgical applications.
There are two main types of cauterization:
- Chemical cauterization - involves the application of a caustic chemical. Generally, during the Civil War, the chemical of choice was silver nitrate. Chemical cauterization is still in use today.
- Mechanical cauterization - involves the application of a heated metallic instrument called a caudery or caudery iron. In modern medicine, electrical cauterization and the laser have generally replaced the "hot iron" cautery.
This page, above, from an 1866 Gemrig Instrument Catalog, illustrates several varieties. The top two "irons" came as a set with a removable ebony handle with set screw. The bottom iron, labeled 2, was permanently attached to its wooden handle. Below are a couple of other examples from http://antiquescientifica.com
@Mike Serpa this thread is for you.