Inhaled anesthetics of special risk to the environment — 5 tips to on reduce OR carbon footprints

Anesthesia Business Consultants President and CEO Tony Mira penned a column offering anesthesiologists implementable strategies to reduce an operating room's carbon footprint.

The indirect burden healthcare puts on the environment is proportional to 44,000 to 98,000 patients who die annually as a result of preventable medical errors. However, environmental pollution is not attributed to health systems, New Haven, Conn.-based Yale University anesthesiologist Jodi Sherman, MD, and environmental engineer Matthew J. Eckelman, PhD, said in a study.

The operating room is a prime environmental offender, with 20 to 30 percent of total waste attributable to the OR. Inhaled anesthetics of are particular concern. On average, these gases account for 20 percent of a hospital's total greenhouse emissions.

Here's what you should know:

1. Dr. Sherman said restricting desflurane and nitrous oxide to cases where the agents are needed to reduce morbidity and mortality is an important first step to reduce greenhouse emissions.

2. The duo recommended against using high fresh gas flows for inhaled drugs. They also recommend using gas capturing systems.

3. Finally, the pair recommend anesthesiologists use total IV anesthesia, neuraxial or peripheral nerve blocks, which are all less environmentally harmful.

4. Practice GreenHealth recommends anesthesiologists reduce anesthetic flows, which reduce anesthetic gas to the point needed to maintain sedation after a procedure has started.

5. The American Society of Anesthesiologists also offered several other environment-friendly practices including:

  • Reduce inhaled anesthetic atmospheric waste
  • Reduce IV pharmaceutical waste
  • Reduce anesthesia equipment waste
  • Solid waste segregation
  • Consider reusable linens
  • Avoid excess electric use
  • Develop a sustainability committee

For more information on all best practices, click here.

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