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Levy-type regulating chloroform inhaler, England, 1919-1925

Alfred Goodman Levy (1866-1954) invented this type of inhaler to regulate the concentration of chloroform, to match the clinical standards of one per cent to four per cent. Levy believed that the dose of chloroform was crucial in avoiding cardiac problems while under anaesthetic. Levy discovered in 1911 that it was actually low level doses of chloroform that caused death because of ventricular fibrillation. This is a condition where the ventricle cannot eject blood from the heart. If the patient is unconscious when this happens, they will die without emergency care. Levy’s discovery led to chloroform being abandoned as an anaesthetic.

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    Glossary: ventricular fibrillation

    A disorganised chaotic contraction of the ventricle that fails to effectively eject blood from the ventricle

    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.