Penn Medicine to phase out desflurane anesthetic

Philadelphia-based Penn Medicine is phasing out common anesthesia gas desflurane, the most potent greenhouse gas found in hospitals, according to a May 7 report from The Philadelphia Inquirer. 

Desflurane, which was once favored by physicians because it leaves the body quickly, can hang in the atmosphere for 14 years, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. 

Sevoflurane could now provide a better option for patients, as it is less likely to cause nausea and is less irritating to the airway. It also disperses in the atmosphere in just over a year. 

Penn Medicine is following several other systems, including Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Marlton, N.J.-based Virtua Health, Radnor, Pa.-based Main Line Health, Pittsburgh-based UPMC and Boston-based Massachusetts General Hospital, in making an effort to cut back on anesthesia emissions. 

Penn Medicine has already phased out desflurane at four of its six hospitals, and the remaining two will follow suit by the end of the year. 

The elimination follows a broader climate initiative that Penn Medicine signed along with 130 other health organizations. Penn also plans to save millions of dollars through its emissions reduction initiatives, according to the report. 

Princeton (N.J.) Hospital has reported a $40,000 yearly savings through the elimination of desflurane, according to the newspaper. 

The climate pledge Penn signed calls for health organizations to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and eliminate emissions by 2050, according to an April 22 news release from the health system.

Penn is taking additional steps toward green operating, including turning off air-filtration systems when operating rooms are not in use overnight and on weekends. Some of its single-use medical supplies, such as pulse oximeters and scalpels, are now collected and sent to a plant that sanitizes and refurbishes them.

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