Ask people to describe greenhouse gases in a bit more detail, however, and they may fall short. They will likely name carbon dioxide as the main culprit. Methane could also get a mention.
Even fewer people know that eight percent of US greenhouse gas emissions are from US hospitals1, most of which comes from anesthesia gas. Anesthesia is a critical part of hospital care and while eight percent is a small portion, on a kilogram-per-kilogram basis, the most common anesthetic gases used in surgery are more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide.
They are called desflurane, isoflurane, and sevoflurane, and they are up to 2,500 times more potent than CO2. Levels of these gases have been rising globally, according to several studies. They have even been detected as far as Antarctica.
The good news is that, there is a convenient solution, being used by Ochsner Health System.
Ochsner is Louisiana’s largest non-profit, academic, healthcare system, and they are known for their strong focus on environmentally-friendly patient care.
Software called ecoFLOW from GE Healthcare assists clinicians to potentially increase efficiency and decrease costs by displaying oxygen flow and anesthetic agent use in an easy-to-read digital format. This could replace the conventional approach that is seen in anesthesiology, which involves using more gas than necessary.
“The ecoFLOW solution allows us to deploy standardized, environmentally responsible anesthetic care in all facilities across the Ochsner Health System where ever appropriate,” said Dr. Armin Schubert, Vice President of Medical Affairs at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.
In the U.S., around 50 million patients receive general anesthesia every year2. Hardly any of the gases are broken down in the body, instead being exhausted into the environment. What’s more, without an accurate way to determine exactly how much gas each patient needs, clinicians will often administer larger doses than required, with the excess expelled as waste.
A busy, mid-size hospital in the US will purchase up to 1,000 liters of these gases per year; that’s the equivalent of up to 1,200 passenger car emissions3. But by integrating ecoFLOW, this could soon no longer be the case.
1 – American Society of Anesthesiologists
3 – International Society for Anaesthetic Pharmacology, July 2010