Emerg Med J 20:214-217 doi:10.1136/emj.20.3.214
  • Review

Nitrous oxide in emergency medicine

  1. Í O’Sullivan1,
  2. J Benger2
  1. 1Bristol and Weston Emergency Departments, Bristol Royal Infirmary, Bristol UK
  2. 2Emergency Department, Bristol Royal Infirmary
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr Í O’ Sullivan, Bristol and Weston Emergency Departments, Bristol Royal Infirmary, Marlborough Street, Bristol BS2 8HW, UK; 
  • Accepted 14 June 2002


Safe and predictable analgesia is required for the potentially painful or uncomfortable procedures often undertaken in an emergency department. The characteristics of an ideal analgesic agent are safety, predictability, non-invasive delivery, freedom from side effects, simplicity of use, and a rapid onset and offset. Newer approaches have threatened the widespread use of nitrous oxide, but despite its long history this simple gas still has much to offer.

“I am sure the air in heaven must be this wonder-working gas of delight”.

Robert Southey, Poet (1774 to 1843)


  • Funding: none.

  • Conflicts of interest: none.

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