Features  |   April 2020
Environmental and Health Impacts of Nitrous Oxide in Current Medical Practice
Author Affiliations
  • Brian P. Barrick, M.D., D.D.S.
    Subcommittee on Environmental Health
  • Uday Jain, B.S.S.E., M.D., Ph.D., FASA
    Subcommittee on Environmental Health
  • Molly M. Herr, M.D.
    Subcommittee on Environmental Health
Article Information
Cardiovascular Anesthesia / Endocrine and Metabolic Systems / Hematologic System / Obstetric Anesthesia / Pain Medicine / Pediatric Anesthesia / Pharmacology / Respiratory System / Features
Features   |   April 2020
Environmental and Health Impacts of Nitrous Oxide in Current Medical Practice
ASA Monitor 4 2020, Vol.84, 22-25.
ASA Monitor 4 2020, Vol.84, 22-25.
The U.S. health care sector is a major contributor to environmental degradation.1  The effects are several-fold, and many are addressed elsewhere in this issue of the Monitor. The authors, here, will focus on the impact of nitrous oxide in anesthetic practice on planetary health
Since its introduction in the 1840s, nitrous oxide has remained a common inhaled sedative and adjunct to general anesthesia. Lack of pungency, fast-on/fast-off pharmacokinetics, anxiolytic and analgesic properties, and maintenance of a more stable hemodynamic profile when compared to volatile anesthetics alone have made it a favorite among many practitioners. There are several known contraindications to its use (closed air spaces, etc.), but this article will dwell on lesser-known environmental and health impacts: potential contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, degradation of the ozone layer, and untoward effects on patients and exposed healthcare workers.
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