History is not boring: consider how the 20 most important publications for anesthesiology have shaped our field. (Image source: Thinkstock)
History is not boring: consider how the 20 most important publications for anesthesiology have shaped our field. (Image source: Thinkstock)


Many might think that history is boring. Specifically with regard to anesthesia, who cares what happened 50 years ago? For anesthesiologists, the history of anesthesia is important in part because it allows us to better understand from where we have come so that we have a better understanding of why it is that we do what we do. What we learn is that lessons of the past have not been forgotten. In this issue of Anesthesia & Analgesia, Dr. Paul Barash, Department of Anesthesiology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, and coauthors compiled a final list of 20 of the most important publications that are significant “game changers” for our field. This list is contained in the article titled “Game Changers: The 20 Most Important Anesthesia Articles Ever Published.”

The articles are listed below with links, if links are available. We encourage readers to read the article in its entirety for a more complete description of each article selected as one of the 20 most important publications. Readers might also note that most of the articles are contained in either the New England Journal of Medicine or JAMA. It’s true that for many of the older articles, there were no specialty “anesthesiology” journals. Anesthesiology, however, is part of general medicine, and to keep up to date with anesthesiology, we should not only read journals that contain the words “anesthesia” or “anesthesiology” in their titles. Do you agree with the authors’ selection of publications?

  1. Bigelow HJ. Insensibility during surgical operations produced by inhalation. Boston Med Surg J 1846; 35:309-17
  2. Koller C. On the use of cocaine for producing anaesthesia on the eye. Lancet 1884; 124:990-2
  3. Cushing H. On routine determinations of arterial tension in operating room and clinic. Boston Med Surg J 1903;148:250-56
  4. Saklad M. Grading of patients for surgical procedures. Anesthesiology 1941; 2:281-4
  5. MacEwen W. Clinical observations on the introduction of tracheal tubes by the mouth instead of performing tracheotomy or laryngotomy. Brit Med J 1880; 2:163-5; Jackson C. The technique of insertion of intratracheal insufflation tubes. Surg Gynecol Obstet 1913; 17:507-509; Guedel AE , Waters RM. A new intratracheal catheter. Anesth Analg 1928; 7:238-239
  6. Wood A. On a new method of treating neuralgia by the direct application of opiates to the painful points. Edinb J Med Surg 1855; 82:265-81
  7. Simpson JY. Notes on the employment of the inhalation of sulphuric ether in the practice of midwifery. Monthly J Med Sci 1847; 7:721-8
  8. Anand KJ, Hickey PR. Pain and its effects in the human neonate and fetus. N Engl J Med 1987; 317:1321-9
  9. Beecher HK. Ethics and clinical research. N Engl J Med 1966; 274:1354-60
  10. Eichhorn JH, Cooper JB, Cullen DJ, Maier WR, Philip JH, Seeman RG. Standards for patient monitoring during anesthesia at Harvard Medical School. JAMA 1986; 256:1017-20
  11. Waters RM, Hathaway HR, Cassels WH. The relation of anesthesiology to medical education. JAMA 1939; 112:1667-71
  12. Saidman LJ, Eger II EI. Effect of nitrous oxide and of narcotic premedication on the alveolar concentration of halothane required for anesthesia. Anesthesiology 1964; 25:302-6
  13. Griffith HR, Johnson GE. The use of Curare in general anesthesia. Anesthesiology
    1942; 3:418-20
  14. Wang JK, Nauss LA, Thomas JE. Pain relief by intrathecally applied morphine in man. Anesthesiology 1979; 50:149-51
  15. Engstrom, CG. Respirator enligt ny princip. Svenska Lakartidningen 1953; 50:545-552; Engstrom CG. Treatment of severe cases of respiratory paralysis by the Engstrom universal respirator. Br Med J 1954; 2:666-9
  16. Severinghaus JW, Bradley AF. Electrodes for blood PO2 and PCO2 determination. J Appl Physiol 1958; 13:515-20
  17. Safar P, Brown TC, Holtey WJ, Wilder RJ. Ventilation and circulation with closed-chest cardiac massage in man. JAMA 1961; 176:574-576
  18. Lowenstein E, Hallowell P, Levine FH, Daggett WM, Austen WG, Laver MB. Cardiovascular response to large doses of intravenous morphine in man. N Engl J Med 1969; 281:1389-93
  19. Michenfelder JD, Gronert GA, Rehder K. Neuroanesthesia. Anesthesiology 1969;30:65-100
  20. Ford JL, Reed WA. The surgicenter. An innovation in the delivery and cost of medical care. Ariz Med 1969; 26 801-4