UAE: Abu Dhabi hospital discontinues use of carbon-emitting anaesthetic agent

When released into the atmosphere, Desflurane can trap heat and contribute to global warming and its associated environmental aftermaths


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Published: Fri 14 Jul 2023, 4:09 PM

Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City (SSMC) has discontinued the use of the environmentally harmful anaesthetic agent Desflurane, which is considered a major greenhouse gas.

Desflurane is an inhaled anaesthetic often used to induce anaesthesia at the beginning of a surgical procedure. While it is an effective anaesthetic agent, it damages the environment due to its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. When released into the atmosphere, Desflurane can trap heat and contribute to global warming and its associated environmental aftermaths.

Desflurane is 2,540 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than an equivalent mass of CO2. A 240ml bottle of Desflurane, completely vaporised will produce the equivalent of 886 kg of CO2. In everyday terms, this is the equivalent of driving 4,943km in a petrol-engine car.

“As part of our broader commitment to reducing our carbon footprint, we have discontinued using Desflurane at SSMC,” Dr Monzer Hassan Sadek, chair of the department of anaesthesia, noted.

Anaesthesia as a specialty contributes up to 5 per cent of an acute hospital’s carbon footprint. The predominant source of this footprint is from anaesthetic gases, used during traditional general anaesthesia. The most harmful of these include Nitrous Oxide and Desflurane.

“Not only is this a win for the environment, but research has shown that other inhaled anaesthetics are just as effective and may even have a lower risk of respiratory complications, so it further improves patient safety as well,” Dr Sadek said.


SSMC is one of the UAE’s largest hospitals for serious and complex care and a joint-venture partnership between Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA) and Mayo Clinic. This initiative aligns with the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi’s healthcare sustainability goals announced earlier this year.

Dr Matthew Gettman, chief medical officer of SSMC, underlined that environmental awareness is a guiding principle at the hospital. “As a major complex care hospital, we are very aware that our choices can have a significant impact on the environment, both locally and globally. We are committed to practicing sustainable procurement, which refers to the process of selecting goods and services in a way that minimises negative environmental, social, and economic impacts while maximising positive ones."

"Mitigating greenhouse gas emissions from inhaled anaesthetics, like Desflurane, is just one example of how we are taking a proactive approach to reducing our carbon footprint. We are proud to take this first step and hope to inspire more positive changes for healthcare sustainability in the UAE and beyond,” Dr Gettman added.

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