Sword Swallower's Heart and Oesophagus

This specimen is the oesophagus and heart of a sword swallower who died in a sword swallowing accident.

Please note that this page includes images of human remains.

A heart and oesophagus specimen photographed against a black background

A probe inserted in the specimen shows where the sword penetrated the wall of the oesophagus and then entered the pericardium, the membrane surrounding the heart. There is bruising on the heart, and at least one site (not visible in this image) where the sword penetrated the wall of the heart, causing death. Sword swallowing has a long history across the world, often featuring as part of travelling circuses and sideshows.

The abilities of sword swallowers have also been used in scientific research, particularly the development of upper endoscopy. This is a procedure in which a long, flexible tube with a light and a camera on the end is passed through the mouth into the oesophagus, allowing the doctor to view the oesophagus and stomach.

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