The date marks the first successful public demonstration of ether anaesthesia at the Harvard School of Medicine, Boston, USA, almost 200 years ago on 16 October, 1846.
Palmerston North anaesthetist Dr John Sendall showcased equipment used in the early 20th century, through to the 50s, 80s and today at the hospital on Tuesday.
Part of the display included a Schimmelbusch mask, which is a wire mask frame that is covered in layers of gauze and applied to the patient’s face over their mouth and nose.
Historically, chloroform was used in the mask, which is in stark contrast to the equipment used today.
Dr Sendall demonstrated today’s equipment in an anaesthesia work station with simulated monitors, which uses technology to constantly monitor a patient and keep a consistent concentration of anaesthetic in their body, administered intravenously.
He also showcased the Palmerston Valve, or ADE circuit, which was developed by Dr Sendall in 1984, alongside Dr John Stokes, and was used as a universal breathing system for adults and children until it was superseded by more advanced equipment.
Dr Sendall said it was important that people understood anaesthesia was more than just being put to sleep.
“If you were asleep and someone tried to remove your appendix, you’d probably wake up and complain,” he said.
Dr Sendall said the focus of the day was helping people understand that being under anaesthetic was a controlled state of unconsciousness.
“We’re often shut away in a little white room so people don’t see us and the work we do.”
It’s estimated that more than 4 million anaesthetics are administered each year across New Zealand and Australia.
In New Zealand anaesthesia is always administered by specialists or supervised junior doctors who undergo five years of specialist training under the auspices of the Australia and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists.