Life Cycle Assessment and Costing Methods for Device Procurement: Comparing Reusable and Single-Use Disposable Laryngoscopes

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Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Traditional medical device procurement criteria include efficacy and safety, ease of use and handling, and procurement costs. However, little information is available about life cycle environmental impacts of the production, use, and disposal of medical devices, or about costs incurred after purchase. Reusable and disposable laryngoscopes are of current interest to anesthesiologists. Facing mounting pressure to quickly meet or exceed conflicting infection prevention guidelines and oversight body recommendations, many institutions may be electively switching to single-use disposable (SUD) rigid laryngoscopes or overcleaning reusables, potentially increasing both costs and waste generation. This study provides quantitative comparisons of environmental impacts and total cost of ownership among laryngoscope options, which can aid procurement decision making to benefit facilities and public health.

METHODS:

We describe cradle-to-grave life cycle assessment (LCA) and life cycle costing (LCC) methods and apply these to reusable and SUD metal and plastic laryngoscope handles and tongue blade alternatives at Yale-New Haven Hospital (YNHH). The US Environmental Protection Agency’s Tool for the Reduction and Assessment of Chemical and other environmental Impacts (TRACI) life cycle impact assessment method was used to model environmental impacts of greenhouse gases and other pollutant emissions.

RESULTS:

The SUD plastic handle generates an estimated 16–18 times more life cycle carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2-eq) than traditional low-level disinfection of the reusable steel handle. The SUD plastic tongue blade generates an estimated 5–6 times more CO2-eq than the reusable steel blade treated with high-level disinfection. SUD metal components generated much higher emissions than all alternatives. Both the SUD handle and SUD blade increased life cycle costs compared to the various reusable cleaning scenarios at YNHH. When extrapolated over 1 year (60,000 intubations), estimated costs increased between $495,000 and $604,000 for SUD handles and between $180,000 and $265,000 for SUD blades, compared to reusables, depending on cleaning scenario and assuming 4000 (rated) uses. Considering device attrition, reusable handles would be more economical than SUDs if they last through 4–5 uses, and reusable blades 5–7 uses, before loss.

CONCLUSIONS:

LCA and LCC are feasible methods to ease interpretation of environmental impacts and facility costs when weighing device procurement options. While management practices vary between institutions, all standard methods of cleaning were evaluated and sensitivity analyses performed so that results are widely applicable. For YNHH, the reusable options presented a considerable cost advantage, in addition to offering a better option environmentally. Avoiding overcleaning reusable laryngoscope handles and blades is desirable from an environmental perspective. Costs may vary between facilities, and LCC methodology demonstrates the importance of time-motion labor analysis when comparing reusable and disposable device options.

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