Man's physical universe



by his fellow-dentist Wells, to demonstrate the use of ether in surgical

operations. Morton had already used it with success in extracting


Ether is the common name for diethyl ether, (C2H5)20. It may be

prepared by the action of sulfuric acid on ethyl alcohol.

Ether has been the main general anaesthetic for many years because

it gives good relaxation, and the margin of safety between a useful

plane of anaesthesia and a dangerously deep one is

reasonably wide.

Ether is far from being an ideal anaesthetic, however, because of the

severe depression following its use and the metabolic disturbances it

produces. Like all inhalation anaesthetics, ether is irritating to the

respiratory tract, and ether anaesthesia is sometimes followed by


Other Advances in Anaesthesia Quickly Followed the Discovery of

Ether Anaesthesia.

A year after the discovery of ether anaesthesia, James Simpson

introduced the use of chloroform. Chloroform is not tolerated as well

as ether as a rule, and it damages the liver. The use of chloroform as

a general anaesthetic in surgery is less frequent than the use of ether

in the United States. Its noninflammability, however, makes it

peculiarly useful in restricted fields (e.g., in operations when a cautery

is used).

In 1923 Dr. Arno Luckhardt found that ethylene gas was superior to

ether in that it was less irritating to the respiratory tract and produced

less postoperative nausea. The use of an ethylene-oxygen mixture has

replaced ether in many hospitals. Acetylene gas is also a general

anaesthetic, but it is not used because of its objectionable odor.


ether has recently come into use as a general anaesthetic for short

operative procedures. Tribromethyl alcohol is supplied in the United

States as "avertin with amylene hydrate"; it produces anaesthesia

when introduced into the rectum.


About 1935 cyclopropane H2C CH2 came to be recognized

as an excellent general anaesthetic because of its comparatively low

toxicity and its satisfactory relaxation. Dr. H. R. Griffith reported,

"My conception of anaesthesia with the older gases is that we administer

the gas plus enough oxygen to keep the patient alive and in good

condition. With cyclopropane, on the other hand, w^e administer oxygen

with just enough of the anaesthetic gas to keep the patient asleep."

For many years hypnotics have been used prior to giving a general


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