From Opium to Ether: The Evolution of Anesthesia

Have you ever heard the comment “I don’t mind, as long as they put me under?”  Today, when we think of potentially painful surgery we immediately assume we’ll have the use of anesthesia on our side to get us through with little or no pain.  Surgeons perform amazing and intricate surgeries – heart bypasses, transplants, brain surgery – but would find it difficult without anesthesia.

Needles and soporifics
The Chinese were probably the first to use a form of anesthesia, acupuncture, as a means of relieving pain during surgical procedures.  The earliest text on the medical use of acupuncture, the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Inner Medicine, dates back to 200 B.C., but the practice itself has its roots to Taosim which originated in the 4th century B.C.

The inventive and industrious Romans pioneered the use of soporifics such as opium and mandrake to perform operations.  Across the Atlantic, Incan shamans had their patients chew coca leaves and drilled holes in their heads to let the bad spirits escape.

Here in the U.S. we’re all fairly familiar with the use of alcohol as an anesthetic, thanks to Gabby Hayes and John Wayne.  Good old whiskey was used around the world in modern times, but side effects of vomiting, addiction, and sometimes death made this method undesirable.

The advent of modern anesthetic practices

Modern techniques to reduce surgical pain began when the English scientist Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) discovered that inhalation of nitrous oxide might relieve pain.  However, the watershed event for medicine and surgery came when William Thomas Green Morton (1819-1868), a Boston dentist, publically demonstrated the application of ether to remove a tumor from the neck of his patient.  Morton had rightly concluded that Priestly’s idea was right, but the gas was wrong.

In the early 20th century ether and chloroform were replaced by halogenated hydrocarbons such as halothane, which is still used.  Today we have a “balanced anesthesia” approach: a “cocktail” of drugs to induce loss of consciousness and eliminate pain.

Save money on Ganim Medical’s selection of pre-owned anesthesia machines

Drager Narkomed 2A Anesthesia Machine (Pre-Owned) $6,995
K-Package: O2 analyzer, tidal volume monitor, alarms; three vaporizers; AVE ventilator; standard hypoxic guard;
standard O2 and N2O; E-cylinder and central gas connections standard; AVE ventilator (electronic) standard; can be configured with ascending (A-of-F style) or descending bellows. Read more.

Drager Narkomed 2B anesthesia machine (pre-owned) $7995
Three 19.1 vaporizers; AVE electronic ventilator; absorber and scavenger; oxygen analyzer;  breathing pressure monitor; respiratory volume; centralized alarm and data; oxygen ratio controller; pressure limit controller; weight: 400 lbs (181.4 kg); max dimensions: 40” L x 68” H x 25” W (101.6 x 172.7 x 63.5 cm); top shelf: 32” L x 52” W (81.3 x 132.1 cm); table top: area 271 in2.  Read more.

Ohmeda Excel 210 SE anesthesia machine (pre-owned) $7,200
Accommodates three gases and two vaporizers; powerful ventilation and monitoring capabilities for secondary anesthetizing locations; integrated oxygen, volume, airway pressure monitoring; enclosed, non-interchangeable pneumatic circuitry; differentiated pipeline, cylinder gauges; master on/off switch activates electronics and pneumatics. Read more.

Ohmeda Modulus 2 Plus Anesthesia Machine (Pre-Owned) $7,000
Comes standard with a 7810 ventilator that integrates oxygen, volume, and pressure monitoring; optional pulse oximetry and endtidal CO2 modules; great for university and research facilities; double-flow meter tubes (O2 & N2O) and flow meter protection shield, link-25 hypoxic guard and touch-coded oxygen knob. Read more.

Visit our web site at:  www.ganimonline.com.  Call us toll free at: 800-522-5909.

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refurbished anesthesia machine
Ganim Medical's selection of pre-owned and refurbished medical equipment and furniture can save you hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars over purchasing new. Click on the above image to view our product offer.
Our biomedical engineering technicians are highly skilled specialists who not only repair medical equipment but also take preventive measures to ensure that your equipment doesn't malfunction at critical moments. Click on the above image for more information.
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