Existence of anesthesia can be tracked back to ancient times. Various historical documents confirm that surgical treatment was on the comparatively high level, even such operations as trepanation of the skull and lithotomy were conducted. And of course ancient doctors were striving to find means that would let them conduct surgeries without pain. These means were multiple and quite imperfect.
First evidence of anesthesiology was fixed as early as 15th century B.C. In some papyruses such anesthetics as mandrake, datura, poppy, etc. were mentioned. The information about anesthetic properties of some plants passed from Egypt to ancient Greece and Rome. General anesthesia was also known in ancient China, where Chinese surgeon Hua Tuo used some decoctions to make his patients sleep.
In medieval medical schools in Salerno and Bologna (12th c.) more than 150 various narcotic anesthetic means and recipes were used. Medieval scientists and doctors also described some substances that can cause deep sleep. Anesthetic property of alcoholic drinks was described as well.
To make a patient unconscious during surgery vessels on the neck were squeezed, which caused faint. All those methods were quite imperfect: they were unable to fully relieve pain and often led to the death of patient.
For local anesthesia doctors used ice and snow. This observation of medieval doctors was used later on. In 19th century Dominique Larrey, chief surgeon of Napoleon’s army, reported about his observation: during the Battle of Eylau the surgeon conducted amputations at minus 19 degrees Celsius, and he observed loss of sensation in patients.
During the First World War another method was described: to reduce pain, some nerve knots and nerve trunks were squeezed for an hour or so to reach the effect of anesthesia. According to some sources, this method enabled surgeons to conduct amputations without pain.
We should mention once again: up to 1846 the history of anesthesiology didn’t possess an organized system of concepts and methods. The new era in the development of surgery and anesthesiology was opened by discovering ether anesthesia. It was first used by Dr. Crawford Long in 1842, to excise a tumor from the patient’s neck. However, this method became famous after the public demonstration of ether anesthesia effect. Experiment took place in 1846, during teeth extraction. Since that time ether anesthesia was widely used.
History of anesthesiology also includes one more essential discovering. In 1799 British chemist Humphry Devy noticed that he didn’t feel toothache when he was in the nitrous oxide camera. He also mentioned that the substance has other properties: it causes inabriation and euphoria. Because of that chemist then called nitrous oxide the “laughing gas”. From 1868 nitrous oxide inhalation was combined with oxygen, which made anesthesia more effective.
Intravenous anesthesia was used by surgeons since the beginning of 20th century. It was first used to supplement inhalational anesthesia, and in the same time it was developing as an independent method. 50-60ies brought new anesthetic substances, which now take up central position in anesthesiology. Research on various combinations and dozes of known anesthetics allowed scientists to intensify the necessary effect, and, in the same time reduce harmful and toxic influence of every component. Every day new findings and observations add more pages to the history of anesthesiology, making the fight with pain more and more sophisticated.