Amputation with Anesthesia: Dec. 21, 1846

Back in the mid-19th century, Robert Liston was known as one of the top surgeons in London, his reputation enhanced by his ability to perform an amputation in two to three minutes, almost twice as fast as most doctors. But until this procedure in late 1846, Liston, like most surgeons, had relied on hypnotism  to try to reduce the patients’ pain.

The operation was an amputation above the knee of a man named Frederick  Churchill and Liston used ether as anesthesia. He referred to it as a “Yankee dodge,” because it had first been tried in America a few months earlier.  The surgery was described as a great success and he would write that the “age of agony” in surgery was over.  Liston, who invented locking forceps and the “Liston Splint,”--used to stabilize dislocated or broken legs--died a year later of an aortic aneurysm.