We at Pure-Line Plumbing have extensive experience in plumbing, and we have particular expertise in providing plumbing for medical facilities—we do not just provide plumbing infrastructure for water, but also for medical gases such as oxygen, helium, and nitrous oxide.
Nitrous oxide been used in the medical field since 1844, and its history dates back even further than that. In this article, we will provide a brief history of nitrous oxide, highlighting some of the key developments in its use as an anesthetic.
- Discovery – Nitrous oxide was first discovered in 1772 by John Priestly, an English scientist and clergyman who was also known for isolating oxygen and carbon dioxide.
- Popularity as Entertainment – It took several decades for anyone to try using nitrous oxide as an anesthetic. First, nitrous oxide became popular as what we would now call a recreational drug—at traveling medicine shows and carnivals, people could pay to breathe in the gas and experience a high, laughing from the intoxication and at their own silly antics while under its effects.
- First Use as an Anesthetic – A dentist named Horace Wells was the first to demonstrate the use of nitrous oxide as an anesthetic, and he did so during a dental extraction in 1844. Although his early trials had proven very successful, at his first public demonstration of the technique, he began the dental procedure before the gas had fully taken effect, which caused the patient to cry out in pain. This undermined the point of the demonstration and made other dentists hesitant to adopt the technique themselves. Nitrous oxide didn’t come into widespread use until 1863.
- Nitrous Oxide Today – Nitrous oxide is still widely used today, but as an anxiolytic (drug that reduces anxiety) rather than as an anesthetic.