Ether has quite a strong and unpleasant odour. Older people still vividly remember this characteristic smell during a dentist’s appointment or before they had their tonsils removed. Have you also had or given an ether anaesthetic, and can you remember the smell?
Can you remember how operating theatres smelled?
Professor David Gibb (OH, 10.01.12):
Dr Des O’ Brien (OH, 30.11.11):
Dr Richard Bailey (OH, 18.01.12):
At the Children’s Hospital lots of open circuitry and not much scavenging was used in the early 1980s. Sometimes you could smell methoxyflurane being used in the operating theatre. It had quite a characteristic odour. Dr Reg Cammack tries to describe it (OH, 20.12.11):
“So it was then decided that they would have, what do they call them – scavengers to collect the [expired gases]; over the expiratory valve they would put a tube and duct it away and out into the atmosphere. Although in one operating room, they ducted into the exhaust, air exhaust and it was then finally let out into the women’s tea room.”
(OH, Dr Des O’ Brien, 30.11.11)
Before scavenging was introduced in the operating theatres the air was contaminated with many different inhalational anaesthetic agents. The first report of possible ill-effects and miscarriages from inhaling waste anaesthetic gases by operating theatre staff was published by the Russian doctor Vaisman in 1967. Today, all waste anaesthetic gases are routinely collected and transferred outside the working area for safe disposal by a scavenging system. Listen to Professor David Gibb discussing how he used suction equipment to design a scavenging device for the Bennett BA-4 in 1975 (OH, 10.01.12):