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Sunday, March 3, 2013

Pain Control

By T.A. Wheat, from "Medicine in Virginia During the Civil War"
 
Almost from the moment of injury, efforts were made to ensure that the wounded soldier felt as little pain as possible. Unfortunately, the first substance administered to a wounded man was usually alcohol because it was felt to be a stimulant. But alcohol actually suppresses the nervous system and dilates the blood vessels, neither of which is helpful, especially in cases involving major blood loss.
 
The assistant surgeon, at the aid station, also used an oral narcotic, usually morphine sulfate, and might allow the patient to inhale the vapors of chloroform for additional pain relief. At the division hospital, usually prior to examination of the wound and certainly prior to any surgery, the patient was given additional alcohol, narcotic, and enough chloroform to render him insensible to pain.
 
Many soldiers wrote that they remembered their surgery, but felt no pain. Confederate general Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, who had his left arm amputated, was said to have stated that the sound of the saw on the bone was the sweetest music he had ever heard. He also described chloroform as "an infinite blessing."
 

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