What are the key characteristics of illumination systems in operating theatres?

By: Secom
16 de February, 2022
Reading time: 5 min

When it comes to aiding healthcare professionals as they perform surgery, the illumination in operating theatres is key. It needs to make it easy for personnel to concentrate exclusively on the operation in hand and guarantee patient safety.

In this article we will talk about...

  • The importance of correct illumination in operating theatres
  • Characteristics of the illumination in operating theatres
  • Technical characteristics
  • Types of luminaires

The importance of correct illumination in operating theatres

The success of surgical interventions depends, to a large extent, on the work environment that healthcare professionals are provided with, and illumination plays a key role in ensuring that the conditions for this critical line of work are optimum.

The illumination systems in operating theatres comprise several types of luminaires, most of which are ceiling lights, but they can also be floor-standing lights. This guarantees correct visibility without glare throughout the operating theatre and avoids eye strain so that medical work can be performed to the highest of standards.

Characteristics of the illumination in operating theatres

On the whole, the light from luminaires in operating theatres needs to make it easy for eyes to adapt. This means having two illumination levels. The average illumination around the operating table should be 2,000 lux and there should be an average illumination of 1,000 lux in the rest of the room. For the former, an average illumination of 2000 lux can be achieved by installing two rows of luminaires with an asymmetric light distribution along each side of the operating table. In addition, the colour temperature needs to be between 4,000 and 5,000 K and the chromatic reproduction level needs to be equal to or in excess of 90.

The following are additional key features of the lights in operating theatres:

White light

The illumination in these rooms must be a pure white light because this helps visibility. Among other things, it helps healthcare professionals to see precisely where they need to make incisions.

No high temperatures

If we take into account that healthcare personnel often spend several hours in operating theatres, it is important to avoid use of lights that emit heat or significantly increase the temperature in the room. This ensures that staff do not experience disagreeable hot flushes, sweating, dizziness and general discomfort which could have a detrimental impact on the intervention.

Thanks to LED technology, it is possible to light up areas without emitting heat. Unlike conventional technology, LED lights avoid giving off this kind of unwanted energy.

Energy efficiency and energy savings

With reference to the point above, the fact that operating theatres are in use for several hours each day means that the energy consumption from illumination is high. However, LED lights have positioned themselves as the perfect choice for these environments because they are incredibly energy efficient compared with other lighting systems. They minimise energy consumption and maximise the luminous flux.

Ease of installation

Operating theatre lights need to be easy to install so that assembly and displacement are simple. This is particularly key when it comes to floor-standing lights because medical specialists need to be able to move them around and position them in the best spot for the task in hand.

No infrared radiation

The lights in operating theatres must not generate infrared (IR) and ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The reason for this is to avoid accelerating the drying process of any human tissue that is left exposed and to stop tissue from being damaged.

Furthermore, operating theatres need to be very aseptic. Luminaires and accessories need to be very watertight and must not generate infrared radiation that could promote incubation and multiplication of germs.

No eye strain

Taking into account how long surgical interventions can last, illumination needs to be able to stop personnel from getting tired and experiencing eye strain. This means installing electronic equipment without any flickers.

No shadows

In operating theatres, it is essential to achieve a balance between the amount of light available and the creation of cast and contour shadows. Cast shadows obscure visibility and contour shadows help doctors to gauge volume and depth. The most efficient type of illumination is one that keeps cast shadows to a minimum and optimises contour shadows. The more beams of light there are, the fewer the shadows and the better the surgeon’s visibility.

Technical characteristics

Some of the singular features of lights in operating theatres include circular central casing and an integrated control system. They can also have a remote control or tactile panel for turning lights off and on, retractable systems for ceiling assembly and automatic systems for adjusting light intensity. Many also have other additional features such as a back-up source of electricity.

Types of luminaires

There are two main types of operating theatre lights: halogen lights and lights with LED technology. Given their optimum features and energy efficiency levels, the latter are highly recommendable.

Halogen lights

These incandescent lamps are manufactured using halogen gas and quartz glass. For many years, they were the preferred choice for these areas of hospitals. They have an intense and brilliant white light. However, they tend to overheat and cause temperature management issues. Furthermore, they can turn off unexpectedly and this increases the risk to patients and interrupts the work of medical healthcare professionals.

Iluminación Led Quirófanos

LED lamps

There is great potential to the use of LED lamps in operating theatres because they are able to generate significant savings and they require minimal maintenance. As such, they are more efficient than halogen lights. Furthermore, unlike halogen lights, LED luminaires for operating theatres do not need to have filters installed in them to reduce invisible radiation.

Halogen lights, meanwhile, have a useful life of between 1,000 and 3,000 hours, which means that they can suddenly fail with no prior warning. LEDs are generally prepared to last for over 40,000 hours, which avoids these kinds of issues.

Clearly, given the importance of its role, the illumination in operating theatres must be carefully selected so that surgeons can perform their job with absolute precision and under the safest possible conditions.

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