Vapocoolants or refrigerant topical anesthetics provided surface chilling from the rapid evaporation of a sprayed-on liquid. Such brisk local anesthetics were used for brief surgical procedures (e.g., lancing a boil), for limited dental work, and even for massage therapies. The earliest available and longest used vapocoolant was ethyl chloride, which later was found to be a general anesthetic. The widest used vapocoolant was Somnoform, a mixture of ethyl chloride, methyl chloride, and ethyl bromide. Marketed heavily from 1896 through 1906, Anestile (bottom) was a vapocoolant with a 5:1 ratio of ethyl chloride to methyl chloride. For convenience, the manufacturer of Anestile, Bengué, provided a variety of dispensers (an “automatic” one, top). That company is better known today under its anglicized label “Bengay” for its arthritis liniments. (Copyright © the American Society of Anesthesiologists’ Wood Library-Museum of Anesthesiology.)

Vapocoolants or refrigerant topical anesthetics provided surface chilling from the rapid evaporation of a sprayed-on liquid. Such brisk local anesthetics were used for brief surgical procedures (e.g., lancing a boil), for limited dental work, and even for massage therapies. The earliest available and longest used vapocoolant was ethyl chloride, which later was found to be a general anesthetic. The widest used vapocoolant was Somnoform, a mixture of ethyl chloride, methyl chloride, and ethyl bromide. Marketed heavily from 1896 through 1906, Anestile (bottom) was a vapocoolant with a 5:1 ratio of ethyl chloride to methyl chloride. For convenience, the manufacturer of Anestile, Bengué, provided a variety of dispensers (an “automatic” one, top). That company is better known today under its anglicized label “Bengay” for its arthritis liniments. (Copyright © the American Society of Anesthesiologists’ Wood Library-Museum of Anesthesiology.)

George S. Bause, M.D., M.P.H., Honorary Curator and Laureate of the History of Anesthesia, Wood Library-Museum of Anesthesiology, Schaumburg, Illinois, and Clinical Associate Professor, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio. UJYC@aol.com.