An Anesthesiologist’s Perspective on the History of Basic Airway Management: The “Artisanal Anesthetic” Era

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This second installment of the history of basic airway management covers the early—artisanal—years of anesthesia from 1846 to 1904. Anesthesia was invented and practiced as a supporting specialty in the context of great surgical and medical advances. The current-day anesthesia provider tends to equate the history of airway management with the history of intubation, but for the first 58 yr after the introduction of ether anesthesia, airway management was provided by basic airway techniques with or without the use of a face mask. The jaw thrust and chin lift were described in the artisanal years and used primarily with inhalation anesthesia in the spontaneously breathing patient and less often with negative-pressure ventilation in the apneic victim. Positive-pressure ventilation and intubation stayed at the fringes of medical practice, and airway techniques and devices were developed by trial and error. At the beginning of the 20th century, airway management and anesthetic techniques lagged behind surgical requirements.

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