A Quick History of Anesthesia

Have you ever undergone anesthesia? Were you worried about the side effects, something negative happening to you, or death? Well, don’t worry anymore! There have been many medical advances that prove anesthesia is very safe.

Learn more about the history of anesthesia and its medical advances.

History of Anesthesia

Before 1846, there was no way to take someone’s pain away comfortably. Alcohol was widely used but did not fully help nor keep the patients comfortable.

There was a breakthrough by dentist William T.G. Morton and medical surgeon John Warren on October 16, 1846. This was the first anesthesia operation. Before using it on other humans, Morton decided the only way to know if certain chemicals would work was to expose himself and various animals. With some success, he began to use diethyl ether (also known as just ether) on his dental patients.

Glenn Abbott was the first patient to undergo anesthesia. He needed to have a vascular tumor removed from his neck. Both Abbott and Warren coasted successfully through the surgery. Although Abbott may have begun to move toward the end of his surgery, this chemical got him through.

Morton was proud to talk about this ether as a way to erased painful memories from the patient. He chose to use this many times.

Fast-forwarding to what doctors know today, the ether that Morton used was not safe for patients at all. You can learn more about diethyl ether health hazards here.

The Year 1847

Morton began finally lecturing about his discovery to Harvard chemistry professors. He talked about what happened to the patient when administered, how long they would be asleep for, and how they would awake from the chemical.

Another doctor began using Chloroform to “ease the pain of childbirth” on female patients during this exciting time. After this instance, the popularity grew, and it was being used for other surgeries and dental procedures.

Dr. John Snow is simultaneously writing a book On the Inhalation of the Vapour of Ether and On Chloroform and Other Anaesthetics. This book specifically talks about all of the successes with chemicals used in general anesthesia. Visit chempire.net for highly valuable and organized insights into chemical formulas.

The Year 1863

This year is crucial because it brings about nitrous oxide, or more familiarly known as “laughing gas.” This is still used in the 21st century under different instances because of its ability to cause a euphoric feeling. The patient has no memory of what happens after inhaling, and they’re not going to feel any pain.

The Year 1894

During this time, doctors didn’t know how much or how little to give to their patients. They began studying respiratory and heart rates. They used a stethoscope to ensure they were getting the correct readings. Based on the results, they could see that too much could cause death in their patients.

The Year 1901

This is a breakthrough year for women all over the world. After numerous trials of blocking certain nerves, they discovered what we now know as an epidural for women in childbirth. This wasn’t a goal of the experimentation, but they stumbled upon its success.

The Year 1907

“Long Island Society of Anesthetists (LISA)” is the first professional society in the United States. This society is dedicated to its members to ensure they feel supported and educated in all things anesthesia.

The Year 1923

Ethylene-oxygen is the first surgical anesthetic administered this year. Doctor Isabella Herb noted documentation that it causes a “trance-like state” in humans.

In 1929, after several experiments, doctors discovered propofol, ketamine, and etomidate. In fact, these drugs are still used today.

The Year 1935

Finally, a residency program is formed at the Bellevue Hospital in New York. Medical students in this residency program have the opportunity to learn more about anesthesia. They also have the chance to use it on patients, and learn more about negative and positive effects.

The Year 1954

During this time, some deaths are related to the use of anesthesia.  Doctors had to keep documentation on any perioperative mortality cases (deaths that occurred within 30 days of having general anesthesia).

Dr. Henry Beechner and Dr. Donald Todd publish their information about anesthesia-inflicted deaths. It isn’t until 1963 when they start to discover the math relation to how little someone should be inhaling to perform the procedure. It is called the minimum alveolar concentration or MAC.

Years 1964-the 1980s

During this time period, other kinds of anesthesia are being discovered. They all have different uses based on the patient. For example, intravenous ketamine, inhalational enflurane, isoflurane are useable as anesthesia.

In 1985 “The Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation” has been established. This protects patients from any mistakes while they are under anesthesia.

The 90s

Throughout the 1990s, a machine called the “Difficult Airway Algorithm” has been put to use. Even today, this device will assist patients in breathing. While under the anesthesia, the patient remains breathing at a steady rate to perform the surgery. When some procedures take many hours, surgeons can rely on this machine to help keep patients alive.

The 2000s and Beyond

Propofol is now the most commonly used IV medication for general anesthesia. This is popular because it allows the patient to continue breathing on their own. Although a combination of medications is used to keep the patient comfortable, you can be sure to see Propofol on the list.

Learn More Today

Anesthesia has come a long way since the 1800s. The history of anesthesia shows how it has evolved and transformed into a medication used every day. It is common to see it in all surgeries, childbirth scenarios, and dental offices.

If you’re frightened by anesthesia, you should know that the likelihood of anything negative happening is 1 out of 100,000 cases. In today’s world, there are lots of schooling and board exams to pass, but anyone is able to become an anesthesiologist.

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