Spinal anesthesia involves the injection of local anesthetics around the spine to quickly block pain in large regions of the body. The American surgeon, Dr. George P. Pitkin (1885-1943) was born in the year that spinal anesthesia was first introduced. But the procedure brought difficulties as well as benefits, and by the 1920s most American surgeons had rejected it. Dr. Pitkin described his own technique for "controllable" spinal anesthesia in 1927, and became a strong advocate for safe spinal anesthesia. He noted that some complications of inhalation anesthesia could be avoided by using regional anesthesia instead, and that some of the complications of spinal anesthesia could be avoided by careful control over the patient's position on the operating table. He wrote: "I would say that inhalation anesthesia in general will be in a class with chloroform 10 years hence and spinal or regional will be the anesthesia of choice."
In the same paper, Dr. Pitkin described his local anesthesia syringe and 22 gauge needle, as well as a new anesthetic formula later called Spinocain. The syringe could be refilled through a tube without disconnecting the syringe or reinserting the needle multiple times. This was a step toward continuous spinal anesthesia, a technique that was introduced by Dr. William Lemmon
in 1940. Here are two forms of the Pitkin syringe.