Reducing the environmental impact of medical technology at Siemens

22 October 2007

Long before the terms 'climate change' and 'energy efficiency” were on everyone’s lips, Siemens Medical Solutions was working hard to systematically improve the impact of its products and systems on people and the environment. As a result, new computed tomography systems consume 30% less energy, contain 80% less lead and generate up to 58% less radiation than previous systems.

Lifecycle management

A lifecycle assessment has shown that the environmental impact of medical devices is significantly higher in the usage phase than the manufacturing phase.

A magnetic resonance tomography system (MRT) consumes 88% of its lifecycle’s energy when in use, while its manufacture and recycling account for the remaining 12%. The same is true for most other long-lasting electrical and electronic products. The company, therefore, designs the systems to have as little negative environmental impact as possible across the entire lifecycle. This includes all phases, from material selection and manufacturing, to usage, to recycling.

During a cardiac examination, the Somatom Definition computed tomography system (CT) generates up to 58% less radiation, depending on the patient’s pulse rate, with significantly improved image quality. As a result, the examination is much safer for the patient.

To generate radiation the system requires power, therefore the reduction in radiation dose not only protects the patient, it saves energy and helps protect the environment. In a defined standard examination, the CT system requires 30% less energy than its predecessor.

As  result of the lower radiation, the Somatom Definition only contains 19kg of lead for radiation shielding, compared to 110kg as in the past — a drop of more than 80%.

Through these improvements, the developers were able to reduce the environmental impact of production and establish the prerequisites for reduced energy requirements in the usage phase.

When a user replaces a CT system, the high-performance X-ray tubes are returned, refurbished in a complicated, quality-assured process and reused as reconditioned parts.

For its contribution to environmental protection with the Somatom Definition, in 2006 Med was awarded the international Siemens Environmental Prize.


Refurbished medical technology devices receive the 'Proven Excellence' quality seal for their environmental compatibility. Comprehensive quality standards apply to all phases of medical technology systems, from production, to use, to refurbishment and disposal. In accordance with the comprehensive approach of the European Commission regarding integrated product policies, the company takes all relevant environmental aspects into account across the entire product lifecycle.

Refurbishing used systems is a critical component of the corporate philosophy: extending the lifecycle of a product saves resources. For example, used computed tomography, magnetic resonance tomography, ultrasound, radiation therapy and radiography systems are accepted back, and then refurbished by a separate product group called Refurbished Systems (RS).

Refurbishment follows a comprehensive, five-stage quality process (device selection, qualified disassembly, refurbishment process, installation, warranty against defects) with the same high standards as for new devices. The systems then leave the factory with the 'Proven Excellence' quality seal and are sold throughout the world.

RS thereby provides a significant contribution to the environmental initiative of Siemens. In addition, this comprehensive approach prevents 10,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually. The savings correspond to the energy needs of 3000 three-person households per year.

Product environmental declarations

To inform its customers of the environmental characteristics of medical devices, Siemens has created product environmental declarations. In the future for example, prior to purchase, customers will be able to evaluate the follow-up costs produced when operating Siemens medical devices.

Med worked together with representatives of hospitals and leading medical technology manufacturers to determine what information the product environmental declarations had to contain. In the future, whenever a new Med product comes to market, this brochure will be published at the same time. It will provide information on materials, energy consumption, radiation intensity, spare parts consumption and other aspects relevant for decision making. Product environmental declarations are already available for the Magnetom Avanto and Espree MRT systems, as well as the Somatom Definition CT system.

The European Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS)

The environmental management system of the European Union, called EMAS, has the world’s strictest requirements. It has been implemented voluntarily at all Siemens locations in Germany since 1996: every product and work step is audited periodically. Independent, nationally certified EMAS auditors check every year whether the environmental protection guidelines are being maintained at the production facilities.

In addition, the auditors evaluate whether actual improvements have been achieved in critical environmental aspects. The environmental auditors also check the plausibility of the information in the environmental statement that is published annually.

The information on environmentally-relevant activities, procedures, energy and material consumption, hazardous emissions, influence on the environmental behaviour of suppliers and actions to improve the environment thereby enjoy a special level of trust.

Siemens Medical Solutions is following the objective of minimising its environmental impact internationally. The internal EH&S policy (environmental, health and safety) and the EH&S management system apply worldwide to all locations and products.

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