Anesthetic gas is an operating room requirement that has big impacts on the outside world. Waste anesthetic gases – unused gas exhaled by the patient – are considered Scope 1 greenhouse gases and may make up 5 percent or more of a hospital’s entire carbon footprint.
With the leadership and engagement of an anesthesia clinical champion, it is possible to reduce the impacts of anesthetic gas in the operating room.
The American Society of Anesthesiologists offers guidance on environmental sustainability, including anesthetic choice and management, and the reduction, capture, and reuse of waste anesthesia gases.
The University of Wisconsin’s University Hospital and American Family Children’s Hospital saves nearly $240,000 annually by making sure anesthesiologists are aware of the environmental impact of vented anesthetic gases.
Practice Greenhealth members are already reducing waste anesthetic gas levels through:
- Educating anesthesia providers about the costs and environmental impacts of waste anesthesia gas
- Avoiding high-impact inhaled anesthetics desflurane and nitrous oxide. Reducing or eliminating the use of desflurane, the most expensive anesthetic agent with the highest global warming potential (GWP). While it has a much lower GWP, nitrous oxide persists in the atmosphere more than a 100 years after it is vented.
- Using low fresh gas flows
- Considering intravenous and regional techniques
- Investing in new anesthesia equipment, including energy-efficient systems that scavenge, sequester, and/or destroy waste anesthetic gases instead of venting outside
- Retrofitting existing anesthesia machines with energy-efficient supplemental waste anesthetic gas trapping (for volatiles only) or waste anesthetic gas destroying (all inhaled anesthetics, including nitrous oxide), scavenging (for volatiles only), and sequestering equipment
Practice Greenhealth offers resources to help our members develop anesthetic gas management strategies. Our goal is to provide step-by-step resources that make it simpler for any hospital to design, implement, and measure the success of mitigating the impacts waste anesthesia gas.