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An operating suite is arguably the most important room in healthcare—and one of the most dangerous.  A new move in the medical industry aims to redesign ORs with patient and surgical team safety in mind.

Concerned about outcomes, most patients do not give a lot of thought to what happens in the OR once they are under anesthesia.  Because of the nature of surgery, the number of hazards present for all humans in the room are considerable.  Just some of the risks of an OR include:

  • The patient and surgical team can receive electrical and laser burns or shocks from surgical equipment
  • The potential for fire is a known hazard in an OR
  • Cuts, needle pricks, and other mechanical injury from scalpels and equipment used during procedures
  • Falls, trips, and head injury from surgical equipment in the operating canopy
  • Exposure to viral disease like HIV, hepatitis, or COVID-19 due to personal or respiratory exposure
  • Respiratory and skin damage from exposure to noxious gases, chemical agents, or disinfecting agents

A recent piece in The New York Times discusses new ideas coming into play as new OR suites are designed and built. Dr. Scott Reeve, Anesthesia chair at the Medical University of South Carolina said of operating rooms “they’re often cluttered, people can trip, surgeons and nurses can stick themselves with needles, and site infections from dust and other contaminations are a growing problem.”

Operating rooms are being designed with modern healthcare in mind.  Low ceilings and confining rooms increase the possibility of an injury or medical error.  Space overhead is a premium for operating equipment, focused lighting, and monitors.  Oftentimes imaging takes place intra-operatively.  Without imaging equipment in the OR, patients must be surgically closed, taken for a CT or other scan, and returned to the OR.  The travel increases risk of infection and complication, as well as slowing the procedure.

Just some of the improvements being considered include:

  • Opening up overhead space for the monitors, cables, and tubing needed for gas and other chemicals required during a procedure.  Reducing the number of stored items on the OR floor increases safety and improves maneuverability. 
  • Room redesign that creates removable panels for equipment and access to technology.  Improving access throughout the OR reduces downtime of the room.  With room design comes consideration of different OR materials, like stainless steel, that can be easily moved and cleaned.
  • Lighting that does not compete with overhead monitors to cause glare is an important improvement as are materials and overall design to reduce the amount of noise and distraction in the room.

Better design means better and safer service to patients.  Increasing the number of ORs as well as their safety is a lucrative idea to hospitals that boost their bottom line with elective surgical procedures.

Medical mistakes are easy to make.  A better built OR may reduce the risk of injury to patients—and to their surgical team as well.

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