Here’s How Anesthesia Affects Your Brain

In September 1811, British novelist Fanny Burney discovered a concerning lump in her breast. On the advice of her physician, she underwent a mastectomy in Paris at age 59. But anesthesia as we know it today wasn’t yet available, and Burney was awake throughout the four-hour ordeal. She later wrote to her sister about the agony: “I then felt the Knife [rack]ling against the breast bone — scraping it!” Despite the pain, surgeons considered the procedure a success and Burney lived for almost three more decades.

In the same year, Abigail Adams Smith, daughter of founding father and second U.S. president John Adams, also endured a mastectomy. Smith had found a lump at age 46, and as it grew she agreed to allow surgeons to remove her breast. After belting her to a chair in an upstairs bedroom of the Adams home, the surgeon thrust a prong into her

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