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Early days of anaesthesia and the BMJ

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 21 October 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c3338
  1. Perry Board, consultant in anaesthetics
  1. 1Mid-Cheshire Hospital Trust, Leighton Hospital, Crewe
  1. perry.board{at}

The BMJ’s first mention of anaesthesia appears in January 1847, some three or four months after William Morton successfully anaesthetised a patient for excision of a neck tumour at Massachusetts General Hospital. George Edwards described the case of an above knee amputation under ether anaesthesia performed on a young woman of highly nervous temperament who “dreaded the pain of the operation exceedingly.”1 Consequently, it was deemed “a favourable opportunity to test the efficacy of this new discovery.”

A chemist assisted in the preparation of the ether and its administration, and the young …

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