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Major hospitals phase out anesthetic drug once favored by doctors: 'We haven't looked back'

"If you don't have a healthy environment, you don't have healthy patients."

"If you don't have a healthy environment, you don't have healthy patients."

Photo Credit: iStock

Imagine waking up from surgery feeling refreshed, with minimal side effects.

As reported by Phys.org, hospitals in the Philadelphia area are making that a reality by phasing out problematic anesthesia options that also happen to be planet-warming gases as part of a broader effort to reduce their carbon footprint.

Desflurane, a potent warming agent, can hang around in our atmosphere for 14 years after dispersing. Due to its quick elimination from the body, it traditionally has been used for anesthesia, but it can cause side effects such as nausea and lung irritation.

However, hospitals have found safer alternatives like sevoflurane, which leaves the atmosphere after a year of being dispersed and has shown to be less irritating to patients.

Bridget Ruscito, the department of anesthesiology chair at Princeton Medical Center, spearheaded the initiative to eliminate Desflurane in 2021. She asked her department, "Would anyone care if we got rid of it entirely?" without any objection, as Phys.org reported.

"We haven't looked back [since]," said Ruscito.

Some hospitals are opting for IV anesthesia drugs to eliminate pollution altogether as part of the national health sector climate pledge to cut heat-trapping gases in half by 2030 and eliminate them by 2050. This is a significant commitment, considering that operating hospitals currently contribute around 5% of planet-warming gas pollution globally, per a study in Health Affairs. 

Efforts like these, along with other great ones we're seeing, like oil refineries cutting down on cancer-causing pollution and mammoth-sized carbon-capturing plants removing carbon from the atmosphere, will continue to help clean up the air and cool down our planet. 

Phasing out gases like desflurane also has a financial impact. It could potentially save tens of thousands of dollars for some hospitals, while allowing them to improve patient care, per Phys.org.

Gundersen Health System, located in the U.S. midwest, saved over $5 million last year from the renewable energy projects they implemented in 2014.

"That money gets to go right back into our patient care," said Ariel Brophy, a project manager at Gundersen. "If you don't have a healthy environment, you don't have healthy patients."

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