Research Outline

History of Surgical Lighting


To understand how surgical lighting and lighting instruments in the operating room have evolved over time.

Early Findings

  • Surgical lights - also known as an "operating light or a surgical lighthead" - date back to the 1850's originally.
  • In early operating rooms, lighting came from skylights, with the OR being build towards the southeast to maximize the amount of light flowing into the room.
  • In order to avoid light being blocked by individuals in the OR, mirrors were later added to the corners of the room to reflect light.
  • When electric lights first debuted, they were immediately added to ORs. While this solved the problem of light being blocked by individuals in the room, it created a new problem: "the first lights created great heat radiation and the emission of light was hardly controlled".
  • When LED lights hit the market, they replaced electric lights and eliminated the problems with radiation.
  • Today, ORs continue to utilize LED lights, though in different formats than the original ceiling light. Instead, these lights have been incorporated into tools, headlamps, and movable positionable lights.