KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Anesthesiologists Use Different Chemicals To Lessen Their Carbon Footprint

The Sacramento Bee/The Seattle Times: The "choices that anesthesiologists make at a midsize hospital can have the carbon footprint of a small fleet of automobiles, according to a physician who calculated the effects of different options." Anesthesiologists as a result are trying to lessen the environmental impact of the tools of their trade.

"'Changes people could make in their practice right away' could improve the health of the community and the planet, said Susan M. Ryan, a clinical professor of anesthesiology at the University of California, San Francisco." Some doctors use sevoflurane to sedate patients, which many say has the smallest carbon footprint. "Ryan analyzed three inhaled gases that are the most common choices in operating rooms in Europe and North America. After patients inhale them, those anesthetics as well as other gases used to dilute them are usually vented outside the hospital. Some are potent greenhouse gases that can contribute to global warming for decades. If every doctor at a midsize hospital picked the gas with the least impact, the anesthesia emissions would equal the greenhouse gas impact of about 100 passenger cars each year, she calculated" (Peyton Dahlberg, 7/14). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.