Anesthesiology is a specialty grounded in basic and clinical pharmacology. These domains have concepts and vocabularies that are useful to scientists and clinicians, in their understanding and application of pharmacology. Potency (drug dose or concentration producing a given effect) and efficacy (maximum drug effect) are two concepts that ground pharmacology. One of the venerated concepts and terms in anesthesiology is “MAC.” MAC is a nom de plume for potency and EC50 (vide infra). Among the entire pharmacologic armamentarium, inhaled anesthetics are the only drugs for which potency has a special name, and inhaled anesthetics are the only ones in anesthesiology—indeed in all of medicine—that are dosed as a fraction of their EC50. As we celebrate the 60th anniversary of MAC, it is useful to examine what it means and what it stands for.

Last month in Anesthesiology, Dr. Larry Saidman, former Editor-in-Chief of Anesthesiology, recounted in...

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