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Anaesthetic inhaler for chloroform, France, 1840-1860

When in use, a chloroform-soaked sponge was placed in the brass chamber at one end of the anaesthetic inhaler. The patient would inhale the vapours through the textile tube and brass mouth piece. Chloroform was a popular anaesthetic in use from the late 1840s onwards. It gradually began to replace ether, which could cause vomiting and lung problems. However, this trend was reversed when the potentially fatal toxicity of chloroform became apparent. The inhaler was made by Charrière, a surgical instrument maker in Paris, and was purchased from the Charrière, Collin and Gentile collection in 1978 when the company closed.

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    Glossary: anaesthetic

    An agent that causes insensitivity to pain. Applied to either the whole body (general anaesthetic) or a particular area or region (local anaesthetic).

    Glossary: inhaler

    A device for breathing in a drug in order to deliver it to the airways or lungs.

    Glossary: chloroform

    A liquid formerly used as a general anaesthetic although no longer used for this purpose as it causes liver damage and affects the heart rate. It is now used in low concentration to treat flatulence.