This section is from the book "A Treatise On Therapeutics, And Pharmacology Or Materia Medica Vol1", by George B. Wood. Also available from Amazon: Part 1 and Part 2.
Ether is used externally for two purposes, for stimulation, and refrigeration. For the first, it is confined to the part to which it is applied; for the second, it is allowed freely to evaporate so as to lower the temperature.
In neuralgic pains, nervous headache, and nervous earache, it may be applied near the part affected, by means of a compress saturated with it, and then covered by a piece of oiled silk, to prevent evaporation. Sometimes a little of it, applied to the forehead, and held there in the-hollow of the hand, will prove rapidly serviceable in nervous headache. It very quickly produces burning sensation and redness. In earache it is said sometimes to afford instantaneous relief, when dropped into the external meatus. Among the external uses of ether may be mentioned its application to the nostrils in cases of faintness,or even positive syncope, in which it will often do good by its pungency.
Ether dropped into the external meatus is asserted to have repeatedly cured deafness; and, when this is purely functional, we may readily admit that it might yield to the remedy. The practice originated with a French lady, Mademoiselle Cleret, who, having used the ether advantageously in her own case, afterwards tried it with marked effect in a number of deaf and dumb children. Her statements were submitted to a commission, composed partly of medical men, who after a sufficient examination, and some trials, reported favourably of the remedy. (Gaz. des Hopitaux, Mai 8, 1860).
Dr. John J. Black, of Philadelphia, having been induced, by the successful use of ether locally in aphthous affections of the mouth by Dr. Jules Worms, to give the remedy a trial in other local diseases, reports very favourably of its efficiency in aphthous ulcerations, in thrush, in ulcerous stomatitis, acute pharyngitis or ordinary sore-throat, diphtheria. and various chronic ulcers. The ether was applied by means of a camel'shair pencil; and, though it sometimes occasioned a stinging pain at first, this was soon followed by an agreeable coolness and marked relief. In ordinary angina, one of its most striking effects was the rapid subsidence of the swelling, with decided relief to the patient. (Am. Journ. of Med. Sci., April, 1866, p. 356).
* For the description of an apparatus, very advantageously applied by Dr. F. D. Lente, of Cold Spring, N. Y., to the production of anaesthesia for surgical purposes, see the N. York Med. Journ. (Jan. 1866, p. 262). Its advantages are that it saves-the ether, and by ensuring a more steady and thorough application of the vapour, shortens the time preliminary to the anaesthetic effect. In a case in which it was used at the N. Y. Hospital, the patient was completely insensible in a minute and three-quartern, and the quantity of ether used was only an ounce and a half. (Note to the third edition).
With a view to local refrigeration, ether may be used in any case where this effect is required upon the surface of the body; the cuticle being sound. It is employed, however, chiefly in headaches with external heat, and in superficial burns or scalds. It may be dropped on the part, or applied on a single layer of thin muslin or linen. In strangulated hernia, it has been much commended; the object being, in this case, to produce contraction of the strangulated part, and thus enable it to pass back through the opening. It is applied most effectually by letting it fall upon the seat of the hernia in a slender stream. A considerable reduction of the temperature can be obtained in this way.
Since the publication of the preceding edition of this work, a new method of obtaining the refrigerating effect of ether, locally applied, has been introduced into use by Dr. Richardson, of London. It consists in causing the liquid to fall upon the part to be refrigerated, in the form of spray, by means of the atomizer. The cold produced is so great that the tissue may be frozen to a considerable depth; and advantage has been taken of the local anaesthesia which attends the congelation, to perform surgical operations without pain. More will be said on this subject when the anaesthetic effects of cold are treated of.