Anesthesia: Erasing the Memory of Pain

Posted on Apr 10 2014 - 8:32am by David Fava

clinical anesthesiaBack in the old days, doctors had to sew up wounds and perform other surgical procedures using only opium to minimize the patient’s pain. Although opium may have numbed the pain, it isn’t always enough to completely block the discomfort or erase the memory of the procedure.

All of this changed in 1846 when a dentist named Dr. William Morton used a sponge soaked with ether to remove a tumor from the jaw of the patient. The ether made the patient unconscious, and claimed that he had no memory of the procedure and the pain.

Morton’s demonstration changed his status from atypical dentist to an internationally acclaimed healer.

In 1841, a doctor named Dr. Crawford Long claimed that he had used ether in his operations. Moreover, Dr. Charles Jackson, another doctor, said that he influenced Morton’s work when the latter attended his chemistry lectures. Jackson then went to Congress to gain recognition, where he was credited with proposing the use of the term anesthesia.

The Use of Nitrous Oxide

In 1845, the American Medical Association and American Dental Association endorsed Dr. Horace Wells, as the first dentist to use nitrous oxide to extract teeth. Nitrous oxide or laughing gas is an odorless and colorless gas that produces highly pleasurable sensation. Prior to this, chloroform was used as an anesthetic in the mid-1840s. As chloroform is highly toxic, it was banned in the early 1900s.

Evolution of Anesthetics

Today, there’s a wide variety of anesthetics available. Anesthetic experts, however, still used derivatives of early substances, such as nitrous oxide and morphine. Anesthesia practice continues to evolve to enable health experts to perform life-saving operations. There are also clinical anesthesia management companies that collaborate with hospitals to provide services to enhance operating room performance.

Despite a number of theories about how anesthetics work, the accurate mechanisms remain unknown. It is just known that anesthetics interrupt the passage of signals along the nerves. This means that any stimulation to the body is not recognized by the brain.