Tuesday, August 20, 2013


From nps.gov

In the 1840s there was a discovery that changed the face of medicine, ushering forth the modern era of surgery. Dr. William Morton first introduced Ether as an anesthetic in 1846, followed by Dr. James Simpson’s work with Chloroform in 1847. The idea that a patient could be asleep during surgery was so new that Oliver Wendell Holmes felt it necessary to name this grouping of drugs: he chose to pair the Greek prefix “an” meaning without with “aesthesia” meaning sensibility.
While both substances came in liquid form, and were inhaled by the patient from a soaked rag, Ether and Chloroform had their differences. Ether was highly flammable, foul smelling, and slow to work, but did not cause vomiting, prostrations, or excitement as did Chloroform. It was a general rule that while in the field, chloroform was used due to its rapid action and Ether was reserved for the slower paced general hospitals. In all, there are over 80,000 documented cases of anesthesia used during the war showing that it was a welcome tool of healing in this bloody fight.


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