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The History Of Surgery and Anaesthesia

History is the intellectual form in which a civilisation renders account to itself in the past. (1) 

It was said, that:

"those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."(2)

In medicine, we will not go forward, unless we at first look back.

Just over 160 years ago a Dentist by the name of William Thomas Green Morton successfully proved the anaesthetic properties of Ether on a patient at Boston University hospital Massachusetts USA.

A newspaper article in London in 1846 commented: -


“Oh, what delight for every feeling heart to find the New Year ushered in with the announcement of this noble discovery of the power to still the sense of pain, and veil the eye and memory from all the horrors of an operation. ... We have conquered pain,"(3)


Not long after that day the doors of surgery were completely shattered and operations that could never hope to have been done before; were now possible, and an untold number of lives have been saved as a result.

As Operating Department Practitioners and Theatre Nurses, we are valued members of a surgical team; our main aim is to ensure that the patient gets the best treatment while in our care within the Operating Theatre Department.

Our aim is achieved by giving technical assistance to the surgeon, anaesthetist and other physicians. It also requires us to directly treat patients, as one example, in the recovery room by administering pain prevention medication and anti-emetics.

Surgery that historically, has been described as

“the art and practise of treating injuries, deformities and other disorders by manual and instrumental means”

is advancing rapidly and we must keep up with the latest developments in equipment, technique and the continuing patient safety protocols which seem to change weekly.

General Anaesthesia is thought of as

“a completely controllable and reversible form of unconsciousness induced by drugs so that a surgeon can carry out a procedure.”



About This Site

The History of Surgery and Anaesthesia was created as a free resource to educate Students or indeed anyone wishing to understand the beginings of surgery and Anaesthesia.

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