Other tomes: Potter

Syn.—Sulphuric ether.

Properties: Anesthetic, stimulant. A colorless liquid containing 96% ethyl oxide and 4% alcohol, with a little water added. Specific gravity 0.725 to .730. Has a sweetish and burning taste and characteristic odor. Soluble in water 10 parts; but mixes well with alcohol, chloroform and oils. It should be used and handled with care, because its vapor if mixed with the air is very explosive. As ether is used externally and for inhalation as an anesthetic it is not necessary to refer to its effects if taken internally. When inhaled ether causes an increase in volume and frequency of pulse. It seems to depress the respiratory centers; but irritates the respiratory tract and in this way may sustain a patient longer than chloroform. At first it excites, face becomes flushed, followed by pallor and unconsciousness. Though safer than chloroform, on account of its slow action, irritation of respiratory tract, stomach and head symptoms, chloroform is most generally used, and in the hands of a careful physician its dangers are not so great. As ether reduces the temperature from a degree to even 3 or 4 degrees, all means should be employed to maintain the bodily heat. No food should be taken for some hours before ether is used. It should be given slowly and at least 25% air admitted when administered; ½ to 1 ounce is generally required to produce the desired effect. When inhaled it produces a burning in the fauces followed by exhilaration and a roaring sound in the head. In the 1st stage they often rage, weep or laugh. In the second stage there is complete loss of consciousness, respiration is irregular and its effect should be most carefully watched. If respiration becomes stentorous there is danger that the respiratory muscles become paralyzed. Shallow and irregular breathing is always dangerous and the ether be discontinued until deeper and more regular respiration is established. Pale and livid appearance of the face will tell you that the heart is failing or that the respiratory centers are becoming paralyzed. Death results from the latter. This is shown to be a fact by the heart continuing to beat for some time after respiration has entirely ceased. It is often given with chloroform with good results. In case of danger, artificial respiration, electricity to the spine, lowering the head, dilating sphincter ani muscle, etc., should be resorted to. Outside of its use as an anesthetic we think of it in obstetrical practice where there is a feeling of fear in the patient, with great nervous excitement. It will relax a rigid os and lessen pain. Ether may be given as an anesthetic in all cases where it is considered safest. It is often given with chloroform. with better satisfaction than either one alone. In general, however, the careful surgeon prefers chloroform.

The Materia Medica and Clinical Therapeutics, 1905, was written by Fred J. Petersen, M.D.