In the eighteenth century surgery was limited to essential operations, such as the amputation of gangrenous limbs, performed on conscious patients who were strapped in and held down by assistants.
By the mid-nineteenth century gases like ether and chloroform were being used to reduce pain during dentistry and childbirth. Then the hypodermic syringe was developed, allowing drugs to be injected directly into the blood stream resulting in drugs that acted quickly and predictably.
But it wasn't until the early twentieth century that intravenous anaesthetics, compounds that cause loss of consciousness, became available and revolutionized surgery.
Discover some chemistry of intravenous anaesthetics in this issue of AUS-e-NEWS
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