Surgery- Anaesthetics Revision Notes


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Before the development of anaesthetics in the mid-19th century, there was little effective pain
relief. Surgeons had to operate quickly to cut down the patient's pain, shock + blood loss. They
avoided going deep into the body and could not perform complicated procedures. The problem of
infection meant that even if the patient survived the operation, they often died later.
There were no anaesthetics until the mind 19th C. Some doctors gave patients alcohol or opium so
they were less aware of the pain. When they had to operate other people had to hold the patient
down and doctors worked as fast as they could.
The most common surgery in the 19th C was amputation. Surgeons also cut out stones from the
bladder, which is not very deep in the body.
The first suggested anaesthetic was nitrous oxide (LAUGHING GAS). Humphrey Davy
discovered that it made you less aware of pain and suggested its use in surgery. It was first used
as a dental anaesthetic by Horace Wells in 1844.
ETHER was 1st used as an anaesthetic in 1846. William Morton, a dentist in the USA, showed
teeth could be painlessly extracted with it. He then successfully operated on a neck tumour.
The first amputation to use ether as an anaesthetic was performed by Robert Listen in Dec


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