OR Sustainability Stride: Change in Anesthetic Gases Reduces Emissions and Cost

A team of UW Health's anesthesiologists have helped reduce the negative environmental impact from anesthetic gases at UW HealthAnesthetic gases are used throughout UW Health operating rooms to keep patients unconscious and comfortable during procedures. While enormously important to the care we provide for our patients, anesthetic agents can have a potentially negative impact on our environment.


Some of these anesthetic agents can be up to 7,000 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide. With more than 30,000 surgeries being performed at University Hospital and American Family Children’s Hospital each year, we have a tremendous opportunity to reduce any potential negative effects on the environment, and we have.


Starting back in 2012, a team of anesthesiologists led by Karin Zuegge, MD, UW Health’s Medical Director for Sustainability, set out to explore possible changes to our anesthesia gas purchases. This particular effort focused around desflurane, the most environmentally harmful anesthetic agent and surprisingly, the most expensive.


Through educational strategies that focused on provider choice while maintaining a high quality of care for patients, the operating rooms at University Hospital and American Family Children’s Hospital were able to significantly decrease our purchases of desflurane in favor of sevoflurane.


Sevoflurane has about 10 percent of the environmental impact compared to desflurane, which led to a 50 percent decrease in our overall anesthesia gas impact on the environment from 2012 to 2015. We have avoided approximately 4,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent emissions per year with this simple strategy change. This reduction is equal to removing 875 passenger vehicles from the road for one year!


By changing the type of anesthetic gas used in the operating rooms, UW Health was able to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 50 percent


In addition to the positive environmental impact and consistent quality of care, this change in purchasing has led to an annual estimated savings of $250,000 for UW Health. We look forward to further initiatives in our operating rooms that support our sustainability efforts and show that UW Health truly walks the talk when it comes to providing a healthy environment for patients, families, faculty and staff.


By changing the type of anesthetic gases purchased, UW Health was able to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emissions by 4,000 metric tons per year


Date Published: 07/14/2017

News tag(s):  sustainabilitygreenstepskarin l zuegge

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