The movie was made by filmmaker Eugenio Py not long after the invention of motion pictures by the French bothers August Marie Louis Lumière and Louse Lumière, according to author Adolfo Venturini, a professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Buenos Aires.
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Venturini, who is also director of the Museum and Historical Library of the Association of Anesthesia, Analgesia and Reanimation of Buenos Aires, explained that the 1899 film shows a male patient having a lung cyst removed. The procedure took place at the old Hospital de Clínicas in Buenos Aires.
Argentine surgeon Alejandro Posadas (1870–1902) performed the surgery, assisted by medical students. One of these assistants, Rodolfo Santiago Roccatagliata, administered anesthesia by sporadically dropping it from a bottle into a mask placed over the patient's face.
"It is likely that anesthesia was performed with chloroform and (a) hand mask ‘chloroform cone'," Venturini said. "This handmade mask was widely used in the countries of the New World. At this time period in the Americas, young surgical house officers and medical students were expected to be able to fold their own cones, from a variety of textiles, around a stiff paper or cardboard conical shell."
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At least one other film showing an early surgery with anesthesia once existed, but no copies of it are thought to exist now. The Edison Manufacturing Company, according to Venturini, produced the film. The exact title of the film is a mystery, as it's been variously known as "In the Dentist's Chair," "Dr. Colton," or "Dentist Scene."
This even earlier film, according to Venturini, "portrays Gardner Quincy Colton using nitrous oxide on a dental patient."
Image: YouTube still. Credit: Adolfo Venturini