August 27, 2016

History of Medicine: Anesthesia During the Civil War

We have all seen images of the hapless Civil War soldier about to undergo amputation of a limb with the benefit of only a few swigs of whiskey to alleviate the pain.  How true is this image?  We know that sulfuric ether was first used for anesthesia in 1846 followed by chloroform a year later.  What then was the role of these early anesthetics at the advent of the Civil War in 1861?


In most cases whiskey continued as the sole anesthetic. It is estimated that both the North and the South used ether and chloroform some 125,000 times during the war despite Northern blockades that limited access to the South.  However, this pales in comparison to the 476,000 wounded and 620,000 dead.

Chloroform was the method of choice. This was because "chloroform is faster-acting, non-explosive, and less likely to cause initial excitement and a flailing of limbs." This statement by Albin suggests there may have been preferential treatment depending on the rank of the patient: "...the science of anesthesiology has come far since those days when a general got a few drops of chloroform and a private was lauded for his spunk."

An offshoot of the use of anesthetics in the Civil War was the introduction of the nurse anesthetist. Catherine Lawrence was the first nurse to administer anesthesia on the battlefield during the second Battle of Bull Run near Washington, D.C.

 References and Additional Reading:
http://www.uab.edu/medicine/news/latest/item/282-he-s-pretty-spunky-anesthesia-comes-of-age-during-the-civil-war

http://www.general-anaesthesia.com/images/civil-war.html

http://www.aana.com/aboutus/Pages/Answering-the-Call-Video.aspx

http://mentalfloss.com/article/31326/5-medical-innovations-civil-war




July 31, 2016

History of Medicine: What was the earliest anesthetic?

Anesthesia masks - gauze and safety pins
I recently visited a small museum in rural Nebraska.  The frontier doctor who practiced in this town left his medical equipment to the museum.  The crude anesthesia masks, composed of a rigid stainless steel form covered with gauze and secured with safety pins (yes, safety pins - really?) was on display in a glass case.  Presumably these were used to administer ether, or perhaps chloroform.  At any rate, they, and the fact that my son is an anesthesiologist, piqued my interest in the history of anesthesia. So I wondered:  What was the earliest anesthetic?

Turns out, we don't really know when the first, let alone the first effective anesthetic, was administered. True, once the age of medicine came into it's own in the nineteenth century along with the invention of the scientific method, we have a pretty good idea of how it all evolved.  But what about long before that?

We know from ancient artifacts that opium was well known as early as 4000 BCE and that acupuncture was in use by the Chinese as early as 2250 BCE. Of course, wine and alcohol alone or mixed with various plants has been used to dull the awareness of pain since virtually the beginning of time.  Dioscoridas (AD 40-90), a Roman surgeon, used wine from the mandragora (mandrake) plant to induce a deep sleep.  He used the word "anesthesia" to describe this sleep.

It seems clear that none of these methods were sufficient to induce general anesthesia as we know it today.  Thus, surgery did not truly evolve as an efficacious treatment until the patient could be safely anesthetized and revived and dentistry only became tolerable when pain control was on offer (some folks would argue that a visit to the dentist is still not tolerable - but that's a story for another day).

References and additional reading:
http://www.discoveriesinmedicine.com/A-An/Anesthetics.html
http://www.woodlibrarymuseum.org/history-of-anesthesia/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_general_anesthesia

May 3, 2016

Painting Accepted for the Minnesota Watercolor Society Spring Show



My painting Butterfly on Cone Flowers has been accepted into the Minnesota Watercolor Society Spring Show currently underway at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.  The show runs until June 29, 2016. The painting features a batik technique using a wax resist with transparent watercolor.

December 12, 2015

Books Now Available in the Library

I am pleased to announce that all three of my books are now available through the Hennepin County Library System.  The books are shelved in the teen section of the Ridgedale Library in Minnetonka, Minnesota, but can be requested from any library anywhere.

Ridgedale Library, Minnetonka, Minnesota

July 30, 2015

Art Blog Combined with Author Blog


Welcome to my new combined website. My old artwork blog VintageArtStudios.com has now been combined with my author blog caroljlarson.com.  This will make it easier to search and find me by name whether interested in my art or my books or both!