Comfortably Numb

It’s the dog days of summer here in NYC, and maybe time for a bit of light reading, something that can be stuffed in an overstuffed bag, taken to the beach, and then taken out while sitting on a lounge chair, only to be discarded with the detritus of summer fun and ocean refuse, or perhaps picked up by another hapless and lucky beachcomber. While these days wane away like an August sunset, let’s talk about some medical marvels, starting with the basics. And most appropriately, for this week, it’s anesthesia.

As it turns out, the administration of anesthesia in the context of medical procedures is quite old, dating back as far as 3400 BCE in Mesopotamia, which, as I recall from world history is somewhere far away that is no longer around. The first documented use of more modern forms of anesthesia was in 1846 at Massachusetts General Hospital by Dr. William Thomas Green Morton, a dentist (!). From the early days of ether, an inhaled anesthetic agent, and cocaine as a local anesthetic anesthesia has come a long way in safety and efficacy. The use of any type of anesthesia, whether general, spinal, or regional blocks such as those used in our NYC podiatry practice for anything from ingrown toenails to bunion surgery to complex reconstruction is now remarkably safe, and the risk of serious adverse events from the administration of anesthesia is minimally low. And while nobody loves a needle for local anesthesia in the foot, it is far better than just about any foot procedure without anesthesia, barring a foot that lacks sensation or a patient who possesses a creepy masochism. IV sedation, the most common form of anesthesia for hospital based foot surgery is safe and effective, administered by competent and caring anesthesiologists who screen the patients preoperatively to minimize risk after reviewing pertinent medical tests and history, and continuously monitor the patients during surgery. Furthermore, the old school image of waking up sick and more nauseous than after a ride on the Hogwarts ride at Universal Studios is just that – old school. Anesthetic agents have a short half life, pass through the body quickly, and are very well tolerated. And the recent celebrity anesthesia horror stories – well let’s just not go there, and rest assured those are quite exceptional and quite deviant from accepted and normal anesthesia practice.

So, hopefully this talk of anesthetics has assisted in your beach reading goals for the summer. Anesthesia is a modern medical miracle that we generally take for granted because it’s become so common and safe. Tune in next week for some more basic medical miracle talk, avoiding any political talk whatsoever because it totally Trumps what the Hillar-we talking about now.

See you in the office.

Ernest Isaacson