The importance of crisp and clear lighting in the OR

3 minute(s) to read

Quality surgical lighting has long been a critical factor in surgical environments. Without it, doctors are at risk of making mistakes that could seriously affect patient outcomes and their own safety as well.

It should come as no surprise that in a study of surgeons in low-resource settings, 80% reported that the quality of their surgical lights represents a patient safety risk. Furthermore, 18% of these surgeons confirmed that they have directly experienced a negative impact on patient outcomes as a result of inadequate lighting.¹

In this article, we will review the types of lighting typically used in an OR, why specialist lighting is required and what makes LED lighting preferable today in surgery.

Modern surgical procedures are often highly complex and surgeons must have clear visibility of the smallest details while performing these procedures.² Lack of visibility can lead to poor surgical outcomes, increased malpractice claims, and high operating room administration costs due to surgery cancellations and lengthy block times.

Common OR lighting methods

The most common types of lighting used in the OR include:

  1. Overhead lighting
  2. Headlights and illuminated loupes
  3. In-cavity lighting

Suitable lighting based on the procedure type

The type of surgery being performed tends to dictate the surgical lighting needed.

Traditional, open surgery employs overhead lighting when the operative site is not deep within the patient.

Minimally invasive applications may require in-cavity surgical lighting or a surgical microscope with integrated lighting.

Why operating theatres require special lighting 

Operating theatres require specialist lighting for a couple of reasons, correct colour temperature and shadow control.

Surgeons rely on the white tone for clarity and to distinguish specific tones. They need to distinguish these different tones of flesh colours while performing surgery. If the light were to have tones of red, blue, or green it can be misleading and change the appearance of the patient’s tissues. Being able to see the flesh tone clearly is vitally important to their work and patient safety. These are called colour temperatures and they're measured in kelvins.³

Shadows are another factor that can interfere with a surgeon’s perception and accuracy while performing surgery. There are contour shadows and contrast shadows. Contour shadows are a good thing, they help the surgeon distinguish different tissues and variations. Contrast shadows on the other hand cause a problem and obstruct the surgeons’ view.

This leads us to the type of surgical lighting used today that is considered the gold standard.

LED lighting is the new standard 

LED stands for "light emitting diode", and they are used in surgery because they:

  1. Supply a higher level of whiteness at a much lower temperature because they're semiconductors producing less heat energy.
  2. LEDs make it possible to have multiple light heads per unit.
  3. LED light colour is more consistent at making the tones a surgeon needs to see correct, making it easier for the surgeon to distinguish between subtle colour differences.

We believe that the lights your surgeons use matter and hope that this article shed some light on why the specific lighting is used in different procedures and why.

We have a wide range of world-leading surgical and procedure lights. Get in touch and one of our team would be happy to talk through which lights will best suit your operating environment.

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