UPMC to Cease Use of Environmentally Harmful Anesthetic by End of 2023

By: Ed DeWitt

In its latest step toward environmental sustainability, UPMC will phase out the use of the anesthetic Desflurane over the next several months, with the goal of eliminating it across the 40-hospital system by the end of 2023.

Desflurane, a general anesthetic gas commonly used to help patients achieve a deep level of sleep for surgery, is a greenhouse gas and harmful to the ozone layer.

Alternatives to Desflurane, which are safe, effective, and more environmentally friendly, include IV medications and inhaled gases, which are available at all UPMC locations.

“At UPMC, we are always interested in becoming more informed about any environmentally adverse effects of our practices and clinical care,” said Dr. Aman Mahajan, chair, Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, and senior vice president of health innovation at UPMC Enterprises. “Scaling back on Desflurane use has been a priority across the UPMC system. We had some early adopters, and at several UPMC locations, Desflurane is already no longer used for anesthesia.”

UPMC has a long history of addressing environmental concerns and is at the forefront of climate-smart health care innovation. “Our primary objective is always to treat our patients with the highest level of care. Now, systematically, we are looking at how we can reduce our environmental footprint, and we’re making changes,” said Dr. Michael Boninger, chief medical sustainability officer. “We created the UPMC Center for Sustainability to provide us with a platform to institute change and lead by example, and this initiative is a major step in the right direction.”

“As one of the largest academic health systems that also includes community and rural practices across the entire state, the impact of such a change in practice brings needed awareness of environmental impact to all segments of health care,” Mahajan said. “It’s important that UPMC is leading efforts like this toward sustainability where we drive change to improve the environment, the health of our patients and the communities they live in.”

Journalists interested in learning more can contact mediarelations@upmc.edu.