Friday, October 29, 2010

How This Anesthesiologist Lowers His Carbon Footprint

Recently an anesthesiologist at the University of California, Davis made headlines when she described how anesthesiologists can help the environment by using a lower carbon footprint inhalational agent (think sevoflurane). I'm a responsible citizen of this planet. I too would like to help the environment and decrease my carbon footprint. (Is it just me but every time I hear carbon footprint I have a mental picture of Han Solo frozen in carbonite in "The Empire Strikes Back".)

I have previously mentioned the Z-Stick. What better way to conserve energy than to spend as little of it as possible? By remaining in my chair but still able to reach all my anesthesia monitors, I can burn off fewer calories and exhale less carbon dioxide. Voila, less greenhouse gases escaping into the atmosphere to destroy mankind.

Now here is another possibility for anesthesiologists to help our progeny stay cool on this planet.  Anesthesiologists face a wall of equipment every single day.  Each one of these run on electricity and generate heat, sometimes lots of it. Some of the monitors can run quite hot to the touch. Therefore I place bags of IV fluid on top to heat them up and keep them warm. Sure there are faster and more expensive fluid warmers you can buy but they cost money and use electricity which most likely will lead to further generation of greenhouse gases. My method uses heat that is already available and wasted every day. This excess heat has to be cooled off by turning up the air conditioning in the operating room. Why not harness it for another purpose?

If you look at the picture, the control box for our monitors has heat dissipating grills on the exterior surface. I can put one or two bags on top of these extensions and they warm up the fluids quite nicely. Most of our screens now are LCD but in the past when we had CRT monitors, the top would get very warm. I could also put a few bags of fluids up there and keep them nice and toasty.

Granted this is a very slow process for warming IV fluids. A Hotline machine will get your fluids hot almost instantaneously. My method requires about one hour for a room temperature (a cold OR temperature) bag to not feel cold to the touch. It takes about another hour for the bag to actually feel warm. But you'd be amazed how even lukewarm IVF can keep the patient's body temperature from scraping 35 degrees Celsius. Plus you're recycling otherwise lost energy in the operating room. What could be greener than that?

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