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The 'most important' NEJM article ever published

Journal readers select 1846 report on ether anesthesia

Topics: Surgery, Service Lines

November 20, 2012

NEJM readers agree that an 1846 report on the discovery of ether anesthesia is "the most important article" in the prestigious medical journal's 200-year history.

Editors of the Massachusetts-based, internationally renowned journal asked readers to identify "the most important article in NEJM history" as part of its 200th anniversary celebration.

According to NEJM, the 166-year-old article on ether anesthesia was "a resounding favorite" among readers. That report was written by Boston surgeon Henry Jacob Bigelow and titled "Insensibility during Surgical Operations Produced by Inhalation."

The report notes that it "has long been an important problem in medical science to devise some method of mitigating the pain of surgical operations." But, Bigelow writes, "[a]n efficient agent for this purpose has at length been discovered." In the article, Bigelow details "a number of experiments" that Bigelow conducted on his patients.

NEJM is the world's oldest, continuous published medical journal (Buckley, "Now@NEJM," NEJM, 11/1; Kliff, "Wonkblog," Washington Post, 11/19).

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