This section is from "Scientific American Supplement Volumes 275, 286, 288, 299, 303, 312, 315, 324, 344 and 358". Also available from Amazon: Scientific American Reference Book.
I think we are now prepared to show clearly the causes which effect the phenomena in "rapid breathing."
The first thing enlisted is the diversion of the will force in the act of forced respiration at a moment when the heart and lungs have been in normal reciprocal action (20 respirations to 80 pulsations), which act could not be made and carried up to 100 respirations per minute without such concentrated effort that ordinary pain could make no impression upon the brain while this abstraction is kept up.
Second. There is a specific effect resulting from enforced respiration of 100 to the minute, due to the excess of carbonic acid gas set free from the tissues, generated by this enforced normal act of throwing into the lungs five times the normal amount of oxygen in one minute demanded, when the heart has not been aroused to exalted action, which comes from violent exercise in running or where one is suddenly startled, which excess of carbonic acid cannot escape in the same ratio from the lungs, since the heart does not respond to the proportionate overaction of the lungs.
Hyperaemia is the last in this chain of effects, which is due to the excessive amount of air passing into the lungs preventing but little more than the normal quantity of blood from passing from the heart into the arterial circulation, but draws it up in the brain with its excess of carbonic acid gas to act also directly upon the brain as well as throughout the capillary and venous system, and as well upon the heart, the same as if it were suspended in that gas outside the body.
These are evident to the senses of any liberal observer who can witness a subject rapidly breathing.
Some ask why is not this same thing produced when one has been running rapidly for a few minutes? For a very good reason: in this case the rapid inhalations are preceded by the violent throes of the heart to propel the carbonized blood from the overworked tissues and have them set free at the lungs where the air is rushing in at the normal ratio of four to one. This is not an abnormal action, but is of necessity, or asphyxia would instantly result and the runner would drop. Such sometimes occurs where the runner exerts himself too violently at the very outset; and to do so he is compelled to hold his breath for this undue effort, and the heart cannot carry the blood fast enough. In this instance there is an approach to analgesia as from rapid breathing.
Let me take up the first factor--diversion of will--and show that nature invariably resorts to a sudden inhalation to prevent severe infliction of pain being felt. It is the panacea to childhood's frequent bruises and cuts, and every one will remember how when a finger has been hurt it is thrust into the mouth and a violent number of efforts at rapid inhalation is effected until ease comes. By others it is subdued by a fit of crying, which if you will but imitate the sobs, will find how frequently the respirations are made.
One is startled, and the heart would seem to jump out of the chest; in quick obedience to nature the person is found making a number of quick inhalations, which subdue the heart and pacify the will by diversion from the cause.
The same thing is observed in the lower animals. I will relate a case:
An elephant had been operated upon for a diseased eye which gave him great pain, for which he was unprepared, and he was wrathy at the keeper and surgeon. It soon passed off, and the result of the application was so beneficial to the animal that when brought out in a few days after, to have another touch of caustic to the part, he was prepared for them; and, just before the touch, he inflated the lungs to their fullest extent, which occupied more time than the effect of the caustic, when he made no effort at resistance and showed no manifestation of having been pained.
In many cases of extraction of the temporary teeth of children, I make them at the instant I grasp the tooth take one very violent inhalation, which is sufficient. Mesmeric anaesthesia can well be classified under diversion or subjugation of the will, but can be effected in but a small percentage of the cases. To rely upon this first or primary effect, except in instantaneous cases, would be failure.
The second factor is the one upon which I can rely in such of the cases as come into my care, save when I cannot induce them to make such a number of respirations as is absolutely necessary. The whole secret of success lies in the greatest number of respirations that can be effected in from 60 to 90 seconds, and that without any intermission. If the heart, by the alow method of respiration, is pulsating in ratio of four to one respiration, no effect can be induced.
When the respirations are, say, 100 to the minute, and made with all the energy the patient can muster, and are kept up while the operation is going on, there can hardly be a failure in the minor operations.
It is upon this point many of you may question the facts. Before I tried it for the first time upon my own person, I arrived at the same conclusion from a course of argument, that rapid breathing would control the heart's action and pacify it, and even reduce it below the normal standard under my urgent respirations.
In view of the many applications made I feel quite sure in my belief that, inasmuch as the heart's action is but slightly accelerated, though with less force from rapid breathing at the rate of 100 to the minute, there is such an excess of carbonic acid gas set free and crowding upon the heart and capillaries of the brain, without a chance to escape by the lungs, that it is the same to all intents as were carbonic acid breathed through the lungs in common air. Look at the result after this has been kept up for a minute or more? During the next minute the respirations are not more than one or two, and the heart has fallen really below, in some cases, the standard beat, showing most conclusively that once oxygenation has taken place and that the free carbonic acid gas has been so completely consumed, that there is no involuntary call through the pneumogastric nerve for a supply of oxygen.
If any physiological facts can be proven at all, then I feel quite sure of your verdict upon my side.
There is no one thing that goes so far to prove the theory of Lavoisier regarding the action of oxygen in the tissues and capillaries for converting carbon into carbonic acid gas instead of the lungs, as held prior to that time, and still held by many who are not posted in late experiments. At the time I commenced this practice I must confess I knew nothing of it. The study of my cases soon led me to the same theory of Lavoisier, as I could not make the phenomena agree with the old theory of carbonic acid generated only in the lungs.