Anaesthesia: enabling modern surgery

The modern speciality of anaesthesia has come a long way since its earliest days. Early anaesthetics were given by dripping a liquid anaesthetic agent such as chloroform onto a piece of gauze held over a patient’s face. The effects were unpredictable and quite unsafe. Monitoring consisted of a feeling the patient’s pulse, and watching for the rise and fall of the chest.

Modern anaesthetists have a detailed understanding of physiology, bio-chemistry and physics. They are trained in the use of some of the most sophisticated monitoring equipment in medicine. For a typical straightforward anaesthetic in the UK, the anaesthetist will use at least eight different electronic monitors which give information about basic body functions. In addition, advanced monitoring equipment can give information about heart function, circulation, and breathing. Highly adjustable ventilators (breathing machines) are set to exactly suit the needs of the patient.

Anaesthetists today do not need to use the dangerous and often flammable anaesthetic gases of the past. Modern drugs are available to give exactly the effect required, according to the operation, and the general health of the patient.

Many modern surgical techniques would not be possible without the anaesthetic drugs, the techniques and the equipment that anaesthetists use today.   Most important of allis the high level of training given to all anaesthetists in the UK. Patient safety is the key  to everything that anaesthetists do, and this allows us to bring patients safely through the most challenging operations.

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