According to their mission statement, the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation's goal is to, "improve continually the safety of patients during anesthesia care by encouraging and conducting safety research and education." It certainly is a lofty and worthwhile principle to live by. To further that endeavor, the APSF's last newsletter announced a large grant totaling $450,000 to three researchers for projects to improve patient safety.
While I'm not going to argue the merits of the research that the grant recipients are conducting, since I'm sure they've all been vigorously vetted by an experienced and selective committee, one of the projects rubs me as too much politically correct thinking. In fact I can't help feeling that the grant proposal was written to specifically warm the souls of the typical liberal academic mentality that pervades the ivory towers in order to receive the big bucks.
Dr. Jodi Sherman of the Yale School of Medicine is one of the three receivers of the APSF grant. She starts with the premise that, "The large global warming impacts of inhaled anesthetics, particularly compared to intravenous propofol, are established." Wait. What? Inhaled anesthetics have a LARGE impact on global warming? And it's been clearly and scientifically established? Compared to all the pollution coming out of the millions of cars traveling around Los Angeles, the massive emissions from giant factory smokestacks in China, the clearcutting and burning of the Amazon rain forest, my volatile anesthetics is causing a LARGE impact on climate change? Did anybody notify the United Nations about this climate disaster emanating from our operating rooms?
Unfortunately this line of thinking is starting to pervade the anesthesia membership at large. It all started with a paper by Dr. Susan Ryan from U.C. San Francisco in 2010 titled, "Global warming potential of inhaled anesthetics: application to clinical use." In the highly speculative article, she compared anesthesia to the amount of pollution from driving a car a certain number of miles. When you multiply the number of cases being performed each day by the number of operating rooms working, this adds up to a potentially catastrophic impact on global warming.
Bull, I say. And one of the best rebuttals I've read is this paper from Dr. George Mychaskiw, an anesthesiologist from University of Central Florida School of Medicine in Orlando. He starts out with a great quote, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." By his calculations if the total amount of CO2 generated in the world each year is equivalent to the area of the state of Kansas, 82,282 square miles, the amount of pollutants caused by desflurane, the anesthetic most often implicated in global warming, would be equivalent to 300 square feet. If the total CO2 produced annually is equal to the Empire State Building, desflurane's contribution would be only 0.3 millimeters tall.
Does that sound like anesthesia is making a deleterious impact on global warming? Dr. Sherman's research is going to go much further to demonstrate the harmful effects of anesthesia on the global community. She is going to delve into how regional anesthesia, sedation, general inhaled anesthesia, general IV anesthesia, and all their different combinations and permutations will cause the demise of mankind as we know it. PLUS she is going to track how all the various equipment anesthesiologists use to administer these different forms of anesthesia are going to drown all of us in an uncontrollable mountain of refuse. That's a highly ambitious project with a grant of only $150,000. But personally, as soon as I read the first sentence of her research proposal, which is based on a bogus PC mindset, I would have given her $0.