For surgeries that require general anesthesia, anesthesiologists often need to insert a plastic tube into a patient’s trachea (wind pipe) to maintain an open airway and assist breathing. To do this they use a number of tools, including a laryngoscope. A laryngoscope is an instrument used to view the larynx (voice box), which is the opening to the trachea and lungs. It consists of a “blade,” which goes into the patient’s mouth, and a handle. This is a prototype of the curved laryngoscope blade developed by Sir Robert Macintosh (1897-1989) and his skilled technician, Mr. Richard Salt.
Prior to 1943 when Macintosh introduced his curved blade, most laryngoscope blades were long and straight. The straight blades were used to directly hold the epiglottis1
. Macintosh’s curved blade works differently: it indirectly opens the epiglottis by applying pressure to a space between the root of the tongue and epiglottis, called the vallecula. The flange running along the left lower edge of Macintosh’s blade was also a novel innovation. It was designed to move the tongue to the side, which improved the view of the larynx and made more room for a breathing tube. The Macintosh Laryngoscope remains one of the most popular blades worldwide. This prototype was donated to the WLM by Sir Robert R. Macintosh.
1. Epiglottis: a flap of tissue that covers the opening to the larynx (voice box).