Researchers are asking doctors to use less anesthesia on their surgery patients in the name of climate change. Doctors from the Henry Ford Health in Detroit, Michigan, said it could significantly reduce the carbon footprint of hospitals in the US.
Now share your opinion. Research suggests that inhaled anesthesia accounts for up to 0.1 percent of the world’s carbon emissions.
Dr Mohamed Fayed, a senior anesthetist at the Henry Ford, said: ‘Global warming is affecting our daily life more and more, and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions has become crucial.
‘No matter how small each effect is, it will add up. As anesthesiologists, we can contribute significantly to this cause by making little changes in our daily practice — such as lowering the flow of anesthetic gas — without affecting patient care.’
Would you be willing to receive less anesthesia in the name of climate change?
- Yes 33 votes
- No 675 votes
He made the comments at the American Society of Anesthesiologists annual event last Friday in Orlando, Florida.
Henry Ford Health System is now reducing the amount of anesthesia it uses in surgery in an effort to limit the hospital’s impact on climate change (file photo)
Henry Ford fesearchers gathered data from 13,000 patients over the seven months from March to September 2021. They set a goal of reducing anesthesia use to under 3liters of anesthesia every minute (L/m) per surgery when possible.
Trying to reduce the overall use of anesthesia in the hospital, the team instructed physicians to dial back the amount used in between those portions of the procedure.
This is only for inhaled anesthetics, not sedation or localized anesthetics used in smaller procedures.
At the start of their research, only 65 percent of surgeries fell under that threshold. After months of instruction, they had reduced the figure to just seven percent.
Now, they want to reduce anesthesia use to below 2L/m in as many operations as possible.
‘For a long time, there was a notion that the greenhouse effect caused in health care settings was an inevitable and unavoidable cost of providing patient care,’ said Dr. Fayed.
‘But we have learned that reducing anesthetic gas flow is one of the many ways health care can lessen its contribution to the global warming crisis, along with reducing waste, turning off lights and equipment when not in use and challenging practice habits, as long as they don’t compromise patient care.’
The amount of anesthesia a person receives during surgery depends on their weight and other factors such as time in surgery, age and potential risk factors
Surgical anesthetics are made up of multiple chemicals, including nitrous oxide halothane, isoflurance, desflurance, sevoflurane.
An hour of using anesthesia can cause the equivalent impact on the atmosphere as someone driving a car for nearly 500 miles, researchers say.
The Henry Ford research team, which presented their findings at ADVANCE 2023, in Orlando, Florida, this week, explains that surgical anesthesia requires fresh gas at the start and end of procedures.
Use of high levels of anesthesia does come with risks. While it is safe in nearly all cases, too much anesthesia can deprive cells of oxygen and cause stroke, brain injury, coma or even death.
There are risks from not receiving enough anesthesia too, though.
A person could always wake up during surgery, which can be painful and highly traumatic.