The milk of amnesia: A brief history of anaesthesia

Anaesthesia has come a long way from its origins in dentistry in 1840s America, but just how it works remains a medical mystery. Professor David Story discusses the history and challenges of this medical procedure with Pursuit.

McDreamy and McSteamy in Grey’s Anatomy; difficult but brilliant Hugh Laurie in House; dashing George Clooney in ER. TV audiences love a rock star surgeon.

But not so long ago, surgeons were called ‘sawbones’ and patients were told to literally bite on a bullet to silence their screaming. Many chose to die prematurely rather than undergo surgery. It was only the advent of anaesthesia in the mid-19th Century that made surgeons less knife-wielding Dr Moreau and more civilised Dr Watson.

Today anaesthesia is one of the safest routine medical procedures, but challenges remain and the science continues to evolve.

Professor David Story, Head of Anaesthesia, Perioperative and Pain Medicine Unit, Melbourne Medical School, and Foundation Chair of Anaesthesia at the University of Melbourne, discusses the history, evolution, and challenges of anaesthesia with Melbourne University's Pursuit.

This article was first published on Pursuit. Read the original article