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Face mask for chloroform anaesthesia, England, 1848-1870

The design of the face mask has been attributed to Francis Sibson (1814-76) and early examples were made of sheet lead. This example is made from brass and lined with felt. It would have been used by patients to inhale vapours of chloroform to enter a state of unconsciousness before surgery. It is shown here with John Snow’s chloroform inhaler (A625273).

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Glossary: chloroform mask

mask used to administer chloroform, usually made from cloth

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: 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.