The Royal Free’s part in the history of anaesthesia was revealed during the medicine for members event on 8 December.
Alan McGlennan, consultant anaesthetist, presented advances in anaesthesia - from its Victorian beginnings right up to the present day - with a focus how the Royal Free had played its part in his talk to governors, members and the public.
“Although the principle is essentially the same - we put patients to sleep – the method of anaesthesia is very different now from what it was,” Alan said.
“In the old days, anaesthetists were known as ‘rag and bottle men’ who would literally just douse a cloth with ether or chloroform and hold it over the patient’s mouth for about 15 minutes until they went to sleep. Obviously this wasn’t very safe at all.
“We’ve had 125 years of advances since then and the Royal Free has been a leader in many of them. Often people think of anaesthesia as just putting a patient to sleep but it’s a lot more complex than that.”
He ran through the history of anaesthesia and the numerous advances in drugs, technology and techniques.
He said: “The Royal Free has historically been linked with the major figures in anaesthesia, in particular Dr John Snow and Thomas Clover, who were pioneers in the field.
“Over the years, we have continued to be at the forefront of the speciality. We use the latest drugs and equipment and have been particularly proactive in developing techniques to support our leading specialities, such as neurology and hepatobiliary surgery.
“One of the most recent developments has been the use of ultrasound technology to pinpoint the exact location in the neck to numb all the nerves in the arm. This means a patient undergoing an operation on their arm can have a regional anaesthetic rather than a general anaesthetic, which has major benefits including a quicker operation and a shorter recovery period.
“Our cutting-edge medical simulation centre also provides trainee anaesthetists with real-life experience of operations by using a robotic mannequin which responds in the same way as a human.”