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Anesthesia for ambulatory surgery has come a long way since 1842 when James Venable underwent surgery for removal of a neck mass with Crawford W. Long administering ether and also being the surgeon. We examine major advances over the past century and a half. The development of anesthesia as a medical specialty is perhaps the single most important improvement that has enabled advances in the surgical specialties. Moreover, improved equipment, monitoring, training, evaluation of patients, discovery of better anesthetic agents, pain control, and the evolution of perioperative care are the main reasons why ambulatory anesthesia remains so safe in modern times. The development of less invasive surgical techniques, economic factors, and patient preferences provided addition impetus to the popularity of ambulatory surgery. Beyond the discovery in the mid-19th century that ether and nitrous oxide could be used to render patients unconscious during surgical procedures, subsequent developments in our specialty have added modestly, in a stepwise manner, to reduce mortality and morbidity associated with its use. These improvements have allowed us to safely meet the steadily increasing demand for ambulatory surgery.


Richard D Urman, Sukumar P Desai. History of anesthesia for ambulatory surgery. Current opinion in anaesthesiology. 2012 Dec;25(6):641-7

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PMID: 23032681

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