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Disease from Nitrous Oxide



The gas known under the name of nitrous oxide, and which is used as an anaesthetic, chiefly for the extraction of teeth, is some times a cause of induced disease. Sir Humphrey Davy, who first introduced nitrous oxide as an anaesthetic, so habituated himself to the inhalation of the gas that he could not, he tells us, look at a gasholder or watch a person breathing without feeling the desire to inhale. The symptoms the gas induces are those of sleep, ac companied with dreams more or less ecstatic in character. Con sidering how largely this gas is used it is remarkable what a small number of injurious effects are caused by it. Sir Humphrey Davy does not seem to have been physically injured by it although he inhaled it so many times, and, as we see, modern experience of its use runs in confirmation of the same fact.

I have twice, however, seen results from it that assumed an alarming character. In one instance continued headache, vertigo, and nausea followed its administration, with very slow recovery. In another instance the phenomena induced were far more severe. The headache and vertigo lapsed into a seizure resembling epi lepsy in character, recovery from which was followed by hysterical unconsciousness, febrile excitement, extreme dyspepsia, and recur rent convulsive movements. The affection thus excited lasted, in its acute form, for several weeks, and ended in a slow recovery.

In very rare examples nitrous oxide has proved immediately fatal during inhalation; but it must be admitted that this ex treme accident has occurred less frequently from it than from any other anaesthetic.

gas and anaesthetic