History of Surgical Lighting

Goals

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.

Proposed next steps:

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Our early findings were able to find a history of how the specific lighting-types used in the operating room have evolved over time. We would recommend continuing this research with a more detailed overview the specific light formats - such as overhead lights, headlights, and in-cavity lights - and how they're each used differently in surgery.