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Possible Role of the Pessary in the Etiology of Toxic Shock Syndrome
Medical Anthropology Quarterly (1994)
  • Lynnette E Leidy

Medical technology often has unforeseen effects on human health. For example, indwelling urethral catheters promote gram-negative endotoxin shock, and improved absorbency in tampons triggered an epidemic of toxic shock syndrome. The pessary is an ancient gynecologic device used to support or position a displaced or prolapsed uterus. As an invasive device, similar to a vaginal tampon or contraceptive diaphragm, the pessary may have increased a woman's risk of vaginal infections, possibly including toxic shock syndrome, especially during the 19th century when prolapsus uteri was a common diagnosis among young women. Evidence for the involvement of the pessary in the syndrome is drawn from early medical texts that attribute toxic-shock-type symptoms, specifically high or fatal fevers, to absorbent pessaries. Further evidence comes from the culture of Staphylococcus aureus from nonabsorbent pessaries.

  • Iatrogenesis,
  • infectiondisease,
  • toxic shock syndrome,
  • women's health
Publication Date
June, 1994
Citation Information
Lynnette E Leidy. "Possible Role of the Pessary in the Etiology of Toxic Shock Syndrome" Medical Anthropology Quarterly Vol. 8 Iss. 2 (1994)
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