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.
The dose of ether is from half a fluidrachm to two fluidrachms, which, if a given effect is to be sustained, should be repeated at intervals of half an hour, or at most one hour, as the effect rapidly passes off. It may be given in one or two wineglassfuls of sweetened water, well mixed at the moment of administration, and taken cold. A useful method of dissolving it in water for exhibition, suggested originally, I believe, by the late Dr. Joseph Hartshorne, of Philadelphia, is to rub it up with spermaceti, two grains being used to each fluidrachm, then to rub this mixture well with water, and to strain. As water will take up about one-ninth of its bulk of ether, the dose ought to be readily dissolved in a wineglassful of that fluid. In France, a syrup of ether is prepared by putting one part of the ether and sixteen of syrup in a flask, with a tubulure at the lower part on the side, fitted with a cork, through which passes a short tube, the outer extremity of which is closed with a small cork. The mixture is shaken occasionally for four or five days, and then allowed to stand. The syrup, at first turbid, afterwards becomes clear, with a portion of the ether floating on the top undissolved. It is drawn off through the tubulure when wanted for use, and a fluid-ounce may be given at a dose. (Trousseau and Pidoux, 4e ed., ii. 260).
Ether has long been used in this method. The late Dr. P. S. Physick was much in the habit of employing it in pulmonary affections, and invented a small extemporaneous inhaler for the purpose. It is only as an anaesthetic agent, that any claim to discovery has recently been advanced in reference to its exhibition by the lungs.
The way to this discovery had been gradually opened by attempts to effect the same object by other agents, and especially by the favourable result of some trials with nitrous oxide by Dr. Horace Wells, of Connecticut; but the credit of the first application of ether to this purpose must be ascribed to Dr. W. T. G. Morton, of Boston. It was in October, 1846, that the attention of the profession was called to this highly important discovery. The process was originally applied by Dr. Morton to the relief of pain in dentistry. He made known his success to the late Dr. John C. Warren, who was the first to test its efficacy in an important surgical operation.
Though first used to prevent pain in surgical operations, this mode of administering ether may be resorted to in a wide circle of spasmodic, convulsive, and neuralgic affections. Of the painful spasmodic diseases, it may be used advantageously in spasm of the stomach, bowels, bladder, ureters, gall-ducts, and diaphragm, in violent external cramps as those of cholera, and in tetanus. In the atrocious affection last named, it will generally afford more or less relief, and sometimes contributes to the cure. In the poisoning from strychnia it is also indicated. In infantile convulsions from spasm of the bowels, it should be resorted to if other means fail.
The measure has been recommended in chorea, pertussis, and the convulsive affections of hysteria; but, as it will seldom cure these complaints, but only afford temporary relief, there may be danger of inducing a bad habit of indulgence, without corresponding benefit. I have used it with apparent advantage in peculiarly violent or obstinate hysterical convulsions, but, as a general rule, it would be more prudent to dispense with it. For the relaxation of spasm, it may also be employed in dysphagia from spasm of the oesophagus, and in strangulated hernia.
In the paroxysm of spasmodic asthma, when not complicated with acute bronchitis, it may be tried with good hope of benefit; and in the dyspnoea dependent on chronic bronchitis it is doubly useful, if carefully managed, both by relieving the distressing sensation, and favouring mucous secretion. In these cases the remedy should not be pushed to positive insensibility.
Neuralgia, dysmenorrhoea, angina pectoris, and severe or obstinate nervous headaches, are complaints in which the remedy is indicated for its anaesthetic virtues.
In delirium tremens it sometimes powerfully co-operates with opium in producing sleep, and may be tried in obstinate cases.
It has been used also as an antiperiodic in intermittents, and there can scarcely be a doubt, that it would frequently interrupt the paroxysms if applied about the expected period of their approach. It is, however, only in exceptional cases that there can be any occasion for its use. I would recommend that it should be tried in otherwise desperate cases of the pernicious paroxysm of miasmatic fever, when not attended with comatose symptoms.
A case has been reported by Dr. J. H. Hutchinson, of Philadelphia, one of the physicians to the Episcopal Hospital of that city, in which a young woman of twenty years was completely cured, by repeated inhalations of ether, of deafness and dumbness, probably hysterical, after a duration of several months. (Am. Journ. of Med. Sci., April, 1864, p. 412).