The History of Anesthesia

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Mallory Whitson


1st Period

2 February 2010


Anesthesia is the loss of feeling or sensation. It may be accomplished without the loss of consciousness, or with partial or total loss of consciousness. Anesthesia has not been around forever, but there is a background history of its creation and the primitive anesthetics used before anesthesia was discovered. Today there are many different anesthetics and delivery methods dependent to the type of procedure. Anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists are a crucial part of the surgical team. Without anesthesia where would we be today?

“The first recorded use of anesthesia dates back to the ancient Incas. Shamas got coked-up chewing coca leaves and drilled holes in the heads of their patients, to let the bad spirits escape, while spitting into the wounds they had imposed. The coke-resin-spittle substance to numbed the site allowing hours of drilling” (History). In the 1700s to 1800s most patients drank an abundant amount of alcohol, or smoked opium or marijuana to dull the pain. Finally in 1772 a man by the name of Priestly was experimenting with gasses. He mixed some up and created a new gas, nitrous oxide. This caused him to see clearer while feeling lightheaded, but this happened totally by accident. Nitrous oxide is commonly referred to as laughing gas because Priestly could not stop laughing when the gas was in his system. Nitrous oxide was then tested on Humphry Davy, who was the first patient to receive nitrous oxide while having his wisdom teeth removed. He felt no pain, and it was a success (Poetry). Nitrous oxide did not have the strength to relieve surgical pain. In 1842, a doctor by the name of Long had been high on ether, an organic solvent, at a party, and realized he had bruised himself but never felt any pain. Dr. Long convinced his patient James, who had two cysts in his neck, to try a bit of ether for his procedure. James passed out and woke up...
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