How some doctors want to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the operating room
2019-06-13 from cbc.ca
In the moments before a patient undergoes surgery, chances are climate change isn't top of mind.
Yet, the anesthetic gases used to put them to sleep leave a big carbon footprint
In the May online issue of the Canadian Journal of Anesthesia, Dr. Timur Ozelsel, an anesthesiologist at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton, estimates that the emissions impact of using a popular anesthetic called desflurane over the course of a single day in one operating room would be equivalent to driving anywhere from 2,500 to 16,000 kilometres.
"It would be like driving from the capital of Norway all the way down to Cape Town, South Africa," he said.
Still, some doctors aren't aware of the problem or what they can do to help solve it — and some of their colleagues in the field say it's time to change that.
"It's a gas that we use every day in the operating room and actually it's an invisible problem to most of my colleagues," said Dr. Nam Le, an anesthesiologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto.
The drugs he's referring to are sevoflurane and desflurane. Both have been a mainstay in operating rooms for decades. Le said there is little difference between them as anesthetics, except that desflurane costs about twice as much and allows the patient to wake up a bit faster.
The difference between the two gases in terms of their environmental impact, on the other hand, is significant.
Sevoflurane lasts about one year in the atmosphere before it dissipates. Desflurane lingers roughly 14 years and traps five to 20 times more heat.
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