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Working towards a greener future in veterinary anaesthesia

02 November 2022
9 mins read
Volume 13 · Issue 9
Figure 1. Multimodal anaesthesia, or total intravenous anaesthesia, can be administered by syringe drivers at set rates while being closely monitored by appropriately trained personnel.
Figure 1. Multimodal anaesthesia, or total intravenous anaesthesia, can be administered by syringe drivers at set rates while being closely monitored by appropriately trained personnel.


Anaesthetic gases can exhibit global warming effects by acting as greenhouse gases. The global warming potentials of these gases vary greatly — with sevoflurane being the most environmentally friendly. Nitrous oxide may also exhibit a global warming effect by direct ozone depletion. Veterinary professionals have the potential to reduce their carbon footprint by making use of targeted anaesthetic choices, low fresh gas flows, and multimodal anaesthesia protocols. Individual practices can also appoint an environmental leader and apply pressure to production companies, as well as provide incentives to staff members to take individual action. New developments within sustainable anaesthesia include metal organic frameworks for gas recapture and potential reuse, as well as the development of an environmentally friendly volatile agent, xenon.

Veterinary professionals have responsibilities to ensure they are causing minimal harm to the world they inhabit. This article will discuss the environmental science of various anaesthetic gases and quantify them in accordance with their global warming potentials (GWPs) and ozone-depleting abilities. Additional environmental impacts of anaesthetic practice will be considered, such as waste production and energy usage. Vital ways to reduce carbon footprints will also be proposed, such as low fresh gas flow anaesthesia and use of multimodal anaesthetic protocols. A couple of exciting new developments will also be introduced, illuminating the potential for a greener future within veterinary anaesthesia.

The climate crisis is the largest and most prolonged threat to global health ever described (Costello et al, 2009). The rising temperatures documented over recent centuries are attributed largely to anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and ozone depletion (International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 2018) — to which veterinary professionals contribute daily with our anaesthetic practices. The IPCC Special Report in 2018 concluded that humanity has less than 10 years to dramatically reduce our GHG emissions in order to limit climate change-related public health disasters (IPCC, 2018). Such disasters include mass flooding, droughts, malnutrition, pandemic diseases, habitat loss and mass extinctions, among others.

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