Monday, February 11, 2013

Nitrous Oxide Gas -- February 11, 2013

Doctor Peter Henri Van Der Weyde wrote the series of articles which gave this blog its name. This item about laughing gas is from the 26-March-1864 New-York Times.  Gardner Quincy Colton was a pioneer in using laughing gas as an anesthetic. The image comes from the February, 1893 issue of Manufacturer and Builder.

NEW-YORK, March 26, 1864. 

Since the introduction of this gas as an anesthetic in dental operations by Dr. COLTON, now of the Colton Dental Association, No. 22 Bond-street, much has been said about its safety and efficiency, as compared with ether and chloroform. The following letter from Prof. VANDER WEYDE, of the New-York Medical College, sheds light on the subject:

DR. G.Q. COLTON: DEAR SIR: In answer to your letter, asking my opinion about the comparative safety of nitrous oxide gas and ether or chloroform, I must say that as soon as you introduced this gas among the dental profession, I immediately advocated its use, and pointed out, principally to my class in the New-York Medical College, the advantages connected with an anesthetic, which in itself is a powerful supporter of combustion and of respiration, in place of the suffocating ether and chloroform. The fact that you have administered it to about 20,000 persons, without a single fatal result, is an unanswerable proof of its safety as an anesthetic.

I am satisfied that nitrous oxide can be used in all cases where ether and chloroform cannot be safely administered; in many cases, the use of the two last-named anesthetics is, by judicious physicians, considered unsafe; notwithstanding this, there are too many cases on record where counter-indications were overlooked, and fatal results have followed the use of ether and chloroform. I know of no case in which I would consider nitrous oxide gas unadvisable, except in a stage of consumption so far gone that the excitement attending the extraction of a tooth would be unsafe without any anesthetic.

When, now, we look at the hundreds of cases directly killed by ether or chloroform, on the operating chair or table, the comparative value of nitrous oxide must be apparent.

It is a singular fact that among the three anesthetics now in use -- ether, chloroform and nitrous oxide -- the first is combustible in itself, though the very opposite of a supporter of combustion and life; the second, chloroform, is neither combustible nor a supporter of combustion; whilst the last, nitrous oxide, is a powerful supporter of combustion and of life!

The difference between the nitrous oxide and ether and chloroform is that the first, being a supporter of combustion and respiration, stimulates the nervous system and produces an increase of vitality, while the two others, ether and chloroform, being non-supporters of combustion and respiration, depress the nervous system, and bring vitality below the standard, though with the same final result -- perfect unconsciousness of pain; the difference only is, that the unconsciousness produced by the increase of vital action by the nitrous oxide is harmless, and the same result produced by the depression of vital action by ether or chloroform is injurious, and may prove fatal. Very respectfully,

Professor of Chemistry New-York Medical College, and at Cooper Institute.  

No comments: