Chapter: Essential Anesthesia From Science to Practice : Applied physiology and pharmacology : Anesthesia and the lung

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Anesthesia and the lung

The concept of breath and soul reverberates through many languages in which spirit and breath share overlapping meanings.

Anesthesia and the lung

And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul

 (Genesis 2;7)

The concept of breath and soul reverberates through many languages in which spirit and breath share overlapping meanings. For example, in English, to inspire can have a physiological or psychological connotation, while to expire can mean nothing more than to exhale, or it can describe the moment when your spirit leaves you with your last breath. In anesthesia, we deal with both; on the one hand, the breath that needs to be provided for patients who cannot breathe by themselves and, on the other hand, the spirit – in a larger sense – which we subdue with drugs. Small wonder, then, that the linkage of breath and life gives us awesome responsibilities. In our practice no function is more important than ventilation, and no organ more integral to our practice than the lungs. Failure of ventilation has always been, and continues to be, the single most important cause of anesthesia-related mortality. An understanding of basic pulmonary physiology and pathophysiology therefore, is vital to the safe practice of anesthesia.


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