Anesthetics: A Gas & the Liver

When halothane was introduced as an anesthetic in 1956, it seemed nearly perfect. Unlike ether and cyclopropane, it is both nonflammable and nonexplosive—a valuable asset in the modern operating room crammed with electronic gadgetry. It causes patients a minimum of discomfort and, it seemed, could do them no harm at all. It rapidly became widely used. But last week doctors were disturbed by reports in the New England Journal of Medicine that halothane might have caused as many as ten deaths by damaging the patient's liver.

Halothane (C2HBrCIF3) is chemically kin to chloroform, which...

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