The importance of airflow in the operating room

2 minute(s) to read

Ensuring proper airflow and controlling the environment in the OR are crucial to maintaining a safe and sterile environment for patients and staff.

Many steps are taken to provide a clean environment in operating rooms (ORs) to prevent surgical-site infections (SSIs) and a safe working environment for staff and patients. From a clinical point of view, these include scrubbing and gowning, special cleaning procedures, and strict protocols for movements in the sterile field. From the built environment side, these include washable surfaces, controlled access, and a tightly controlled range for temperature, pressure, relative humidity and ventilation rates.¹

Proper airflow in the OR helps control the spread of infectious agents’, which can lead to surgical-site infections (SSIs). SSIs are a major cause of post-surgery complications and, in rare cases, even mortality. They’re incredibly costly and are the most common type of healthcare-associated infection (HAI), accounting for 25% of all HAIs in New Zealand.²

To prevent the spread of these infectious agents, ORs are designed with a positive pressure system that ensures air flows into the room rather than out of it. This helps prevent contaminants from entering the room and ensures any contaminants generated within the room are quickly removed.

Proper airflow also has key benefits for staff by ensuring a comfortable temperature and a maintained humidity level which helps to reduce fatigue and improve the overall performance. Not only that, it also helps control volatile organic compounds (VOCs) generated during surgical procedures. VOCs are chemicals released into the air during surgery from cleaning solutions and chemicals used in anaesthesia. Correct airflow helps remove these chemicals from the OR and minimises potential health risks.

A positive pressure system helps maintain the operating room’s overall cleanliness. The OR is a high-traffic area, meaning the surfaces and equipment in the room are constantly exposed to contaminants. Some of these contaminants are removed from the room with positive airflow, in turn reducing the risk of cross-contamination.

In summary, ensuring proper airflow and controlling environmental factors play a vital role in maintaining a safe and sterile environment in the OR. Hospitals need to ensure their ORs are designed and maintained to provide the highest level of airflow and environmental control possible. Regular monitoring and maintenance of airflow and the environment is crucial to ensuring the OR remains safe and comfortable for patients and staff.

We can help maintain efficient and sterile OR environments, please get in touch with our team.