Towards Safer Anesthesia
Choloroform's dangerous tendency to cause death from overdose and its severe post-operative symptoms were realized over time and an incessant pursuit was undertaken to look for safer agents and less harmful agents for anaesthesia
Further studies on animals, lead to the discovery of tubes that could be placed into the windpipe (leading to the lung) through which oxygen could be inhaled and other inhalation agents could be administered at safe levels and keep the animal alive. This proved to be path- breaking since anesthetic gases like nitrous oxide, vapours from ether for anaesthesia, oxygen for resuscitation and ventilation of a patient could now be given via the tube directly into the lungs in a more controlled manner. Further advancement with the anaesthetic apparatus and the material of the tubes have continued and marked sophistication makes the whole process very safe. The continuous monitoring of oxygen saturation of the body and blood pressure are now a routine in any hospital.
As early as the 16th century, Spanish explorers reported the use of a "poison" used by South American tribes to coat their arrow tips while hunting animals. This poison could paralyse the animals & they would die of suffocation. The extracts from which this poisons were studied by different researchers in Europe. They found that the animal so poisoned could be kept alive if its lungs were ventilated with bellows and oxygen given to it because its heart continued to beat even after the poisoning. They called this "curare" after the Red Indian word 'urai' which meant poison. Doctors first started using curare for convulsions during 'shock therapy'.
The next major breakthrough came in 1942 with the discovery that this curare, an arrow poison, could be used as a muscle relaxant. This was a boon to general anaesthesia since surgeons could now access organs and structures within the depths of the body. The anaesthetist could now keep the patient asleep with the anaesthetic gases, his muscles sufficiently relaxed or immobile for the surgeon to work unhindered, while he was also pain free. Thus was born the modern concept of 'balanced anaesthesia' which is followed currently even today.