What is the significance of World Anaesthesia Day? Here’s how ether revolutionised surgery

Every year on October 16, World Anaesthetic Day is observed to honour the work of anaesthesia providers throughout the world who help medical professionals have successful procedures. The date is commonly referred to as the “birthday” of modern anaesthesia because it was on this day in 1846 that surgeons in the United States successfully delivered ether to a patient for the first time, thus transforming how the surgery would be performed for hundreds of years to come.

There is a compelling case to be made for designating an annual day for anaesthesia practice – for the simple reason of raising awareness in locations across the world where people still lack access to the facility and surgical procedures are often more painful than they need to be.

How was the first ether anaesthetic delivered successfully

The first application of diethyl ether anaesthesia on a patient was demonstrated by clinicians at the Massachusetts General Hospital in the United States on World Anaesthesia Day. They revolutionised surgery by demonstrating that patients may undergo surgery without the agony of pain formerly connected with it.

Edward Gilbert Abbott was anaesthetized with ether by William Thomas Green Morton, a local dentist. The first dean of Harvard Medical School, John Collins Warren, then painlessly removed a tumour from Abbott’s neck. When the patient regained consciousness, he reportedly stated that he only felt like his “neck had been scratched,” which was immediately recognised as a successful procedure, given that several unsuccessful demonstrations – particularly with nitrous oxide anaesthesia – had occurred in the same operating theatre a year prior.

The Harvard School of Medicine now occupies the former Massachusetts General Hospital, making the event one of the most momentous in medical history. The ‘Ether Dome’ is the name given to the surgical operating amphitheatre where ether was first delivered.

The Importance of World Anaesthesia Day

Despite nearly 170 years since the first anaesthetic surgery and the innumerable breakthroughs that have followed, approximately five billion people still lack access to safe anaesthetic techniques, according to the WFSA (World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists). “In face of this continued neglect, worldwide awareness days like World Anaesthesia Day may be a powerful advocacy tool to mobilise political will, educate the general public, and enforce the global aenaesthesia community’s successes,” it stated.

The WFSA focuses on a new area of anaesthetic care each year during World Anaesthesia Day. This allows us to understand the many, important, and varied responsibilities that anaesthesiologists perform in inpatient care.

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