World Anaesthesia Day is marked on 16 October annually to recognise the work done by anaesthesia providers across the world, facilitating successful surgeries for medical professionals.
The date is often informally referred to as the "birthday" of the modern practice of anaesthesia since it was on this day in 1846 when doctors in the United States successfully administered ether for the first time on a patient, in the process changing how surgery was going to be performed for hundreds of years ever since.
There is a salient need to mark an annual day for anaesthesia practice – for the simple reason of raising awareness in places across the world where people still do not have access to the facility and surgical procedures there continue to be primitive, often with more pain associated with them than need be.
How the first ether anaesthesia was successfully administered
World Anaesthesia Day commemorates the day when doctors at the Massachusetts General Hospital in the United States demonstrated the use of diethyl ether anaesthesia for the first time on a patient.
In doing so, they changed surgery forever, proving it was possible for patients to undergo surgery without the torture of pain previously associated with it.
William Thomas Green Morton, a local dentist, used the ether to aenesthetise Edward Gilbert Abbott.
John Collins Warren, the first dean of Harvard Medical School, then painlessly removed part of a tumor from Abbott's neck.
Later, when the patient regained consciousness, he reportedly said that he only felt as if his "neck's been scratched", which was instantly recognised as a successful procedure, considering the fact that several unsuccessful demonstrations – with nitrous oxide anaesthesia in particular – had taken place in the same operating theatre a year prior.
The Massachusetts General Hospital is now the home of the Harvard School of Medicine, which ranks the event as one of the most significant ones in the history of medicine.
The surgical operating amphitheater in which the ether was first administered is now known as the 'Ether Dome'.
World Anaesthesia Day: Significance
According to the WFSA (World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists), despite nearly 170 years having passed since that first anaesthetic procedure and the countless breakthroughs that have succeeded it, nearly five billion people still continue to lack access to safe anaesthesia practices.
"In light of this ongoing neglect, global awareness days like World Anaesthesia Day can be a powerful advocacy tool to mobilise political will, educate the general public, and enforce achievements of the global aenaesthesia community," it said.
Each year for World Anaesthesia Day, the WFSA focuses on a different aspect of anaesthesia care.
This helps us to explain the varied, diverse, and critical roles that anaesthesiologists play in patient wellbeing.