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Doctor Curmudgeon® Who On Earth is Crawford Williamson Long?

By Diane Batshaw Eisman, M.D. FAAP Doctor Eisman is in Family Practice in Aventura, Florida with her partner, Dr. Eugene Eisman, an internist/cardiologist

And who is Crawford Long?

Well, I am really glad you asked.

Dr. Long was the first physician to operate on a completely anesthetized patient. On March 30, 1842, this twenty six year old physician removed a neck tumor while his patient peacefully slept.

The surgery was performed in the little town of Jefferson, Georgia. Dr. Long’s patient, James Venable happily napped while his operation went on.

But it took a long time for Dr. Long to be credited for his monumental contribution to medicine.

In 1846, a dentist Dr. Thomas Morton was the anesthesiologist for a surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Doctor John Warren operated while Dr. Morton put his patient to sleep.

Unfortunately, another doctor who is nameless was blown away by watching this peaceful bit of surgery. So, he quickly alerted several local newspapers and some medical journals to this amazing medical advancement.

For years, Morton was thought to be the first to use ether in a civilian setting.

Ether was used to treat scurvy before it was used as an anesthetic.

Military surgeons were using ether in the Civil War. It took about seventeen minutes to have any effect. When surgeries had to be done quickly on the battlefield, this was not good.

Liquid either was flammable-a dangerous characteristic for candlelight and kerosene settings.

Not great for the surgeon trying to operate under the devastation of wartime conditions.

And then it was found that ether could be vaporized into a gas.

Doctor Crawford Williamson Long was the first physician to ever use it as a general anesthetic.

Long finally published his work in 1848.

History.com notes that doctor “Oliver Wendell Holmes suggested the word ‘anesthesia’ to describe the process of making a patient unconscious in order to free them of surgical pain; he based it on the Greek word ‘anaisthesis,’ which means insensibility or loss of sensation.”

Thank you so much, Dr. Crawford Williamson Long. You are one of my heroes.

Dr. Curmudgeon suggests “Bitter Medicine”, Dr. Eugene Eisman’s story of his experiences–from the humorous to the intense—as a young army doctor serving in the Vietnam War.
Bitter Medicine by Eugene H. Eisman, M.D. –on Amazon

Doctor Curmudgeon® is Diane Batshaw Eisman, M.D., a physician-satirist. This column originally appeared on SERMO, the leading global social network for doctors.
SERMO www.sermo.com

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