The Head Mirror
Luke: What is it?
Obi-Wan: Your father’s light saber. This is a weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or random as a blaster; an elegant weapon for a more civilized age…….
Star Wars: Episode IV- A New Hope (1977)
The head mirror, still in use with a design originally created more than 150 years ago, remains a symbol of physicians, second only to the stethoscope. The current design is credited to Dr. Johann Czermak ,who developed a prototype in Budapest in 1857. Remarkably simple in design and effective in use, it has stood the test of time. The head mirror consists of a small concave mirror with a hole in the center of it, secured by a headband. When not in use the mirror is reflected upward. A light source is placed behind the patient’s head, the mirror is flipped down, and the light is then reflected into the patient’s nose or mouth. The intensity and size of the light beam reflected is adjusted by the physician moving his or her head back and forth. It takes a bit of practice to do this. The eye hole in the center of the mirror allows binocular vision by the examiner. The light is bright and without shadows. It frees up both hands for the examination since the doctor doesn’t have to hold a flashlight or penlight.
Although otolaryngologists of a certain generation generally still use the head mirror, its use is slowly being replaced by either fiberoptic or LED headlights. These are currently used in most training programs. At one time these were quite expensive, but the cost has come down considerably. I still think that there is a certain panache to the humble head mirror, and seeing a look of amusement and interest on my patient’s faces when I bring it out suggests to me that they feel the same.