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Friday, August 2, 2013

The Anesthesia Inhaler

From Mentalfloss.com


In 1863, Stonewall Jackson’s surgeon recommended the removal of his left arm, which had been badly damaged by friendly fire. When a chloroform-soaked cloth was placed over his nose, the Confederate general, in great pain, muttered, “What an infinite blessing,” before going limp.

But such blessings were in short supply. The Confederate Army had a tough time securing enough anesthesia because of the Northern blockade. The standard method of soaking a handkerchief with chloroform wasted the liquid as it evaporated. Dr. Julian John Chisolm solved the dilemma by inventing a 2.5-inch inhaler, the first of its type. Chloroform was dripped through a perforated circle on the side onto a sponge in the interior; as the patient inhaled through tubes, the vapors mixed with air. This new method required only one-eighth of an ounce of chloroform, compared to the old 2-ounce dose. So while Union surgeons knocked out their patients 80,000 times during the war, rebels treated nearly as many with a fraction of the supplies.

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