Field of Science

TMI Friday: Sometimes you shouldn't put a ring on it

"Nocturnal emissions" is the fancy scientific term for orgasms that can occur to people (usually adolescents) during sleep. They are more commonly referred to as "wet dreams", and whilst only real harm they cause comes from having to clean up the mess, they can be quite distressing.
This week, we examine the case from 1931 of a gentleman who suffered from these nocturnal emissions, and came up with a drastic method to deal with them. The man decided that the best way to stop these was to dam the source. He pulled his testicles through a tight hardened steel ring, with the hopes of strangling the source of the sperm.
Five days later, realising his mistake and failing to remove the ring with a hammer and chisel, he admitted himself into hospital. The testicle strangulation had caused fluid to pool within the sack, causing it to swell, making removal of the ring impossible. The doctors applied cold compresses, with the hope that they would cause the testicles to shrink enough to pass through the ring, but to no avail.
There was only one choice left. The doctor called the resident hospital engineer, who noted that the ring was constructed from case hardened steel, and that he would need to use his toughest buzzsaw to remove it properly.
If the prospect of having a high powered whirling blade operate mere millimetres from his delicate parts wasn't enough, the patient also had to worry about heat. The engineer thought this through, and had a solution ready, which he explained to the physician.
[The Engineer].. procured the apparatus and asked me to make arrangements for protecting the scrotum from the heat by drawing a strip of sheet asbestos through between the ring and the skin and by playing a constant stream of water over the surface that was being cut.
This was the 1930's, and no one knew how dangerous asbestos was at the time. But this wasn't the end of the patient's suffering, for there was another quirk of the procedure that the engineer had yet to explain.

[The Engineer]..also warned me that the apparatus, when working, produced a stream of sparks which would necessitate protection both for the patient and for the operator's eyes.
So it was no surprise that the doctor decided to render the patient unconscious for this procedure, which proceeded as dramatically as you might expect.
The heat generated was surprising, and the stream of sparks was projected for fully six feet. Approximately fifty minutes was taken to cut through the ring in two places so that the halves could be separated and removed.
Despite all of these risks, the engineer managed to remove the rings without doing any damage to the patients scrotum, and the patient was able to leave within a day of the ring removal.
Rooke A.B. (1931). Unusual Method of Removing a Foreign Body, British Medical Journal, 702. DOI:

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