An Anesthesiologist’s Perspective on the History of Basic Airway Management: The “Progressive” Era, 1904 to 1960

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Abstract

This third installment of the history of basic airway management discusses the transitional—“progressive”—years of anesthesia from 1904 to 1960. During these 56 yr, airway management was provided primarily by basic techniques with or without the use of a face mask. Airway maneuvers were inherited from the artisanal era: head extension and mandibular advancement. The most common maneuver was head extension, also used in bronchoscopy and laryngoscopy. Basic airway management success was essential for traditional inhalation anesthesia (ether, chloroform) and for the use of the new anesthetic agents (cyclopropane, halothane) and intravenous drugs (thiopental, curare, succinylcholine). By the end of the era, the superiority of intermittent positive pressure ventilation to spontaneous ventilation in anesthesia and negative pressure ventilation in resuscitation had been demonstrated and accepted, and the implementation of endotracheal intubation as a routine technique was underway.

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