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Climate-smart Actions in the Operating Theatre for Improving Sustainability Practices: A Systematic Review


Context: Surgical activity contributes to global warming though the production of greenhouse gases and consumption of resources. To date, no clinical practice guidelines have been made to promote and implement climate-smart actions.
Objective: To perform a systematic review of the available actions that could limit CO2 emission in the operating room (OR) and their potential benefits upon the environment, whilst preserving quality of care.

Evidence acquisition: MEDLINE and Cochrane databases were searched from January 1, 1990 to April 2021. We included studies assessing carbon footprint (CF) in the OR and articles detailing actions that limit or reduce CF.

Evidence synthesis: Thirty-eight studies met the inclusion criteria. We identified six core climate-smart actions: (1) waste reduction by segregation; (2) waste reduction by recy- cling, reuse, and reprocessing; (3) sterilisation; (4) anaesthesia gas management; and (5) improvement of energy use. Quantitative analysis regarding the CF was not possible due to the lack of homogeneous data. For climate-smart actions, the analysis was limited by discrepancies in study scope and in the methodology of CO2 emission calculation. Improvement of education and awareness was found to have an important impact on waste segregation and reduction. Waste management is the area where health care workers could have the strongest impact, whereas the main field to reduce CF in the OR was found to be energy consumption.

Conclusions: This review provides arguments for many climate-smart actions that could be implemented in our daily practice. Improving awareness and education are important to act collectively in a sustainable way. Further studies are mandatory to assess the impact of these climate-smart actions in the OR.

Patient summary: We performed a systematic review of the available scientific litera- ture to reference all the climate-smart actions proposed to improve the sustainability of surgical activities. Waste segregation, waste reduction and recycling, reuse and repro- cessing, sterilisation, anaesthesia gas changes, and improvement of energy use in the operating room were found to be the main areas of research. There is still a long way to go to homogenise and improve the quality of our climate-smart actions.


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