Copyright ©The Author(s) 2023. Published by Baishideng Publishing Group Inc. All rights reserved.
World J Crit Care Med. Sep 9, 2023; 12(4): 217-225
Published online Sep 9, 2023. doi: 10.5492/wjccm.v12.i4.217
Improving environmental sustainability of intensive care units: A mini-review
Kay Choong See
Kay Choong See, Department of Medicine, National University Hospital, Singapore 119228, Singapore
Author contributions: See KC collected the data, wrote the paper, read and approved the final manuscript.
Conflict-of-interest statement: The author reports no relevant conflicts of interest for this article.
Open-Access: This article is an open-access article that was selected by an in-house editor and fully peer-reviewed by external reviewers. It is distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:
Corresponding author: Kay Choong See, FCCP, FRCPE, MBBS, MRCP, Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, National University Hospital, Level 10, NUHS Tower Block, 1E Kent Ridge Road, Singapore 119228, Singapore.
Received: April 24, 2023
Peer-review started: April 24, 2023
First decision: July 4, 2023
Revised: July 8, 2023
Accepted: July 17, 2023
Article in press: July 17, 2023
Published online: September 9, 2023

The carbon footprint of healthcare is significantly impacted by intensive care units, which has implications for climate change and planetary health. Considering this, it is crucial to implement widespread efforts to promote environmental sustainability in these units. A literature search for publications relevant to environmental sustainability of intensive care units was done using PubMed. This mini-review seeks to equip intensive care unit practitioners and managers with the knowledge necessary to measure and mitigate the carbon cost of healthcare for critically ill patients. It will also provide an overview of the current progress in this field and its future direction.

Keywords: Carbon footprint, Critical care, Global warming, Greenhouse effect, Greenhouse gases, Plastics

Core Tip: To achieve environmental sustainability in the intensive care unit (ICU), healthcare professionals must have the knowledge and tools to measure and mitigate the carbon cost of healthcare for critically ill patients. Two complementary methods have been used in the ICU to measure the environmental cost of critical care: Life cycle assessment and material flow analysis. Various methods can decrease waste generation in the healthcare industry, such as preventing the progression of illnesses and inpatient admissions, avoiding unnecessary ICU admissions, minimizing overdiagnosis and over-investigation, and curtailing overtreatment. Interventions can also focus on reducing energy consumption and reusing/recycling products.