The introduction of Anaesthesia at Addenbrooke’s

50 AHPH 1_1_24 Old OperationThe first successful public administration of ether for a surgical operation was in Boston, USA on 16 October 1846, within weeks it was being used in London, so when was the first use of anaesthetics at Addenbrooke’s?

As we do not have any patient case notes for that time, I thought the best place to look would be in the Minutes Books of the Hospital, but unfortunately I could not find any mention of anaesthesia.

The next source to look at was the local newspapers and fortunately the Cambridge Chronicle published a series of short notes on the ‘exciting events at the Hospital’ and this included a report on the first operation under ether anaesthesia. The operation was carried out by George Humphry on Saturday 2 Jan 1847 and was an amputation of a finger.

By the middle of March over 50 operations had been successfully performed under ether, without ill effects. The surgeons were aware of the need for caution in selecting suitable cases, but the number of operations performed during this period was so much above the average, that is had to be assumed that large numbers of patients who had been refusing operations before the introduction of anaesthesia, now came forward!!

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