Sea Sponges and Surgery: From the W. Bruce Fye Historical Unit and Archives
Sea Sponges used in early surgeries at the Mayo Clinic
When the Mayos started their surgical practice at Saint Marys Hospital, they used the sea sponges in this image. These flat sponges were used during surgery as packing to prevent closing or obstruction by intrusion of viscera, as covering to prevent tissue injury, and as absorbents. After the surgery, the sponges would be rinsed, typically in a baking soda to remove the blood, and then cleaned with a chemical bleaching regime and reused. It was around 1900 when gauze sponges replaced the sea sponges in many operating rooms.
W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine & Mayo Clinic Historical Suite