Destructive greenhouse gas ditched from hospital theatres

Read time

Image for Destructive greenhouse gas ditched from hospital theatres

Desflurane is no longer being used at Cairns Hospital.

Cairns Hospital is one of the first hospitals outside of south-east Queensland to ditch an environmentally harmful greenhouse gas used in its operating theatres.

The hospital’s anaesthetic team have vowed to no longer use desflurane, a commonly used anaesthetic agent which is reported to have more than 20 times the global warming potential of alternative gases.

It is estimated that the global warming potential of 1 hour of desflurane anaesthesia in theatre is equivalent to the CO2 produced by a single vehicle travelling 320km.

Anaesthetist Dr Dan Lazzari, from Cairns Hospital’s Theatre Environmental Committee (CTEC), said there are comparable anaesthetic gases available that have a far less harmful environmental impact.

‘Desflurane is the most potent greenhouse gas amongst the volatile anaesthetic gases, with limited benefits over the most commonly used alternative’ he said.

‘Ditching the ‘des’ was an easy decision for us to make, to help make our operating theatres and hospital more environmentally sustainable without compromising patient care.’

Staff members holding a sign

Cairns Hospital anaethetists doctors Dan Lazzari (back, left) and Colin Urquhart with manager of anaesthetic support Jenny Fuller (middle).

Anaesthetist Dr Colin Urquhart said there were also financial benefits from removing desflurane from the hospital’s gas formulary.

‘Des is a more costly anaesthetic compared to the alternatives. Therefore, removing it from use will not only reduce our hospital’s carbon footprint, but also reduce operational costs.’ he said.

Jenny Fuller, Cairns Hospital’s manager of anaesthetic support, said desflurane had also been phased out in operating theatres across the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service.

’There’s been plenty of research into the benefits of anaesthetic alternatives, so we would strongly encourage other regional hospitals to follow our example, to help their facilities reduce their overall carbon footprint.’ she said.

Desflurane fast facts

  • Desflurane is approximately 2540 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than an equivalent mass of carbon dioxide.
  • A 240ml bottle of desflurane, completely vapourised, will produce the equivalent of 886kg of CO2.
  • This is equivalent to the CO2 produced by a single vehicle travelling 320km.