Major medical group wipes study advocating doctors give less anesthesia to reduce carbon footprint

The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) deleted an article from its website this week highlighting research and comments from a doctor who advocates for reducing anesthetic gas in surgery to combat climate change.

The ASA — which is the nation’s premier research and scientific association representing the anesthesiology field — explained that the Jan. 27 article was inaccurate, but declined to provide further information. The 56,000-member group received criticism for giving a platform to the viewpoint that some consider dangerous.

“ASA pulled the news release from our site because it was inaccurate,” ASA spokesperson Theresa Hill told Fox News Digital in an email.

The now-deleted article stated that inhaled anesthetics used during general anesthesia are responsible for up to 0.1% of the world’s total carbon dioxide emissions. During a single hour of surgery in which the inhaled anesthetic desflurane is used, it continued, roughly the same amount of carbon emissions are produced as a car driving up to 470 miles.


A surgeon picks up surgical tools from tray before a surgery in a hospital operating room.  (iStock)

Climate activists have argued that governments need to quickly cut back on carbon emissions to fight global warming.

“Anesthesiologists can play a role in reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming by decreasing the amount of anesthetic gas provided during procedures without compromising patient care,” the ASA release stated.


Dr. Mohamed Fayed, an anesthesia resident physician at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, presented a study he recently authored that analyzed how doctors could reduce anesthetics during surgery to reduce the carbon footprint of operating rooms worldwide during ASA’s annual conference last week. 

He said a high fresh gas flow (FGF) of anesthetics is required at the start and end of surgeries, but could be lowered during the middle of surgeries.

Climate activists have argued that governments need to quickly cut back on carbon emissions to fight global warming.

Climate activists have argued that governments need to quickly cut back on carbon emissions to fight global warming. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)

“Global warming is affecting our daily life more and more, and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions has become crucial,” Fayed said. “No matter how small each effect is, it will add up. As anesthesiologists, we can contribute significantly to this cause by making little changes in our daily practice — such as lowering the flow of anesthetic gas — without affecting patient care.”

“For a long time, there was a notion that the greenhouse effect caused in health care settings was an inevitable and unavoidable cost of providing patient care,” he continued. “But we have learned that reducing anesthetic gas flow is one of the many ways health care can lessen its contribution to the global warming crisis, along with reducing waste, turning off lights and equipment when not in use and challenging practice habits, as long as they don’t compromise patient care.”

Fayed’s study found that anesthesiologists could reduce the average FGF of anesthetics used in surgery from 5-6 liters per minute to 3 liters per minute or less in more than 90% of cases.

Inhaled anesthetics are a key component of many surgeries such as open-heart surgery to ensure patients are unconscious during intensive operations.