In the past we discussed the uses for computers in a medical healthcare facility or hospital. While we provided some solid guidelines, we didn’t address the various departments, their specialties, and unique requirements.

Here we’ll be covering one of them ﹘ the operating theater or room ﹘ from history, its function in patient treatment, to the “why’s” a medical computer is best for this important department.

How the Operating Theater Became the Modern Operating Room

An operating room (OR) is a place in a hospital where surgical operations are performed. It is also called an operating theater, operating suite, or operation suite.

Today’s operating room is based on the Roman military tent and hospital system. Dominique Jean Larrey, who was Napoleon’s army surgeon, would later update it. He introduced the first ambulance corps on the battlefield as well as triage, or prioritizing the most injured or sick for treatment.  

The original operating theaters were actual theaters. Aspiring medical students and public spectators watched surgeons perform surgery from the surrounding tiers of standing stalls. While the surgeons wore an apron to protect their street clothes from blood stains, they operated bare-handed with unsterilized instruments and supplies. 

German surgeon Gustav Neuber in the late 1800s introduced many of the sterilization practices used in modern surgeries. Under him, infected and uninfected patients were housed in separate operating theaters. Heated and filtered air to eliminate germs was done for the first time. During operations, surgeons first washed their faces with antiseptic mercuric chloride to kill off any pathogens, and wore gowns, caps, and shoe covers which were cleaned afterwards. In 1890, American physician William Halsted introduced the practice of wearing gloves during surgery.  

Who’s Who in the OR

Today’s surgeries are performed by a team of healthcare professionals to ensure it’s a success and the patient is safe. Here’s a few providers and other medical staff you might find in a typical OR:

Surgeon: This is the provider who performs the actual procedure on the patient. 

Anesthesiologist: This provider is responsible for overseeing the anesthesia process. They administer the pain medication and sedation drugs required to keep a patient comfortable during surgery as well as keep an eye on their vitals and blood gas levels. A certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) may also take on this role. 

Anesthesia technician: Anesthesia techs help set up the anesthesia area. These duties range from setting up monitors to inventorying the supplies. They may also monitor the patient’s vital signs during surgery.

Surgical technologist: Surgical techs ensure all the surgical instruments are properly sterilized and ready to be handed to the surgeon at the right time.

Nurse circulator: Nurse circulators have numerous duties. They ensure that the OR and  patient are ready prior to starting surgery. They work with every member of the surgical team, making sure they have all the equipment they need. They often answer the surgeon’s phone, any calls on the OR phone, and act as the liaison between the team members in surgery and the rest of the hospital.

Other healthcare professionals that may be found in the OR include the surgical resident, the physician assistant or a certified first assistant, and a medical device company representative. 

Did You Know? History of the Modern Surgeon

The role of surgeon has a history spanning thousands of years and across many countries. 

Some highlights include: 

The physicians of ancient Egypt were some of the first specialists. Some concentrated on the head, others on the eyes, and others on the abdomen. They had extensive knowledge of anatomy, performing dissections as well as mummification. Trephination, or drilling holes into the head of patients to cure various ailments, were performed by Egyptian doctors as far back as 8000 BC.

Sushruta Banaras (800 BCE – 700 BCE?), the “Father of Surgery” in the Indian tradition, is considered the first to establish a surgical practical laboratory or workshop. Instead of using human remains, he would use clay objects and various fruits to practice human surgical techniques. 

Chinese physician Hua Tuo (circa 140 – 208) was the first to use anesthesia for his surgical procedures like castration and brain surgery. He would also take a patient’s pulse as part of his diagnosis, one of the first to do so. 

Unsurprisingly, many practices used in modern medicine came from the Middle East. 

Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi (864 – 925 CE), known as Rhazes, found a treatment for kidney and bladder stones, and was the first to introduce the use of alcohol for medical purposes. Abu Ali al-Hussain Ibn Abdallah Ibn Sina (908 – 1037 CE) determined that tuberculosis was infectious. His surgical operations to remove cancers were among the first in the world. And Abul Qasim Khalaf ibn al-Abbas al-Zahravi (936 – 1013 CE) developed surgery as a separate medical speciality.  

Surgery in the OR

Today’s typical “operating theater” is no longer open to public viewing outside an occasional reality show. Instead it is patient-focused, revolving around their health, privacy, and safety.  

Operating rooms are a sterile environment, spacious and well-lit, typically with overhead surgical lights. Most are window-less and feature controlled temperature and humidity. Special air handlers filter the air and control air pressure. 

The OR comes with a wall suction, oxygen, and possibly other anesthetic gasses. Backup power is available in case of a black-out. 

Outside the OR is a dedicated scrubbing area used by the surgical team prior to surgery. In larger hospitals, the operating room is part of a suite. It contains additional rooms like changing areas for staff; preparation and recovery rooms for patients; storage and cleaning facilities; offices; and OR-only corridors.

A hybrid operating room is a surgical room that is equipped with advanced medical imaging devices such as X-ray computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners.

Surgeries Past and Present

The early surgeons were priests, magicians, physicians or barber-tradesmen. They understood human anatomy and, more importantly, were comfortable performing distasteful but life-saving tasks like removing arrows from bodies, bandaging patients, trephination (see above), and amputations. 

Today, surgery has moved from its haphazard beginnings and into its formal organized specialty today. The American College of Surgeons alone recognizes 14 surgical specialties performed in ORs: 

  • cardiothoracic surgery 
  • colon and rectal surgery 
  • general surgery 
  • gynecology and obstetrics 
  • gynecologic oncology 
  • neurological surgery 
  • ophthalmic surgery 
  • oral and maxillofacial surgery 
  • orthopedic surgery 
  • otorhinolaryngology 
  • pediatric surgery 
  • plastic and maxillofacial surgery 
  • urology 
  • vascular surgery

Worldwide, 310 million major surgeries are performed each year, with around 40 to 50 million in the US alone.  

And speaking of the US, here are the top 10 surgeries performed in the country:

  • Cataract Removal

The surgeon removes the lens of the eye and replaces it with an artificial one. Hopefully this lets the person see more clearly. 

  • C-Section

Almost 1.3 million pregnant women have their babies by C-section each year. 

  • Joint Replacement

The surgeon removes the damaged joint and replaces it with a new, artificial one. The surgeon may replace the entire joint or just part of it depending on the damage.

  • Circumcision 

This surgery removes the skin that covers the head of the penis. With few exceptions, circumcision isn’t a medically necessary procedure.

  • Broken Bone Repair

The surgeon uses screws, metal plates, and rods to keep sections of bone together so it can heal.

  • Angioplasty and Atherectomy

Angioplasty is a procedure to open coronary arteries clogged with plaque to restore normal blood flow to the heart. Atherectomy, which is the scraping off plaque from inside the artery wall, may be done at the same time.

  • Stent Procedure

A stent is a wire mesh tube that helps keep the artery open. Like angioplasty and atherectomy, it’s performed to restore normal blood flow to the heart. 

  • Hysterectomy

The surgeon takes out the uterus in a hysterectomy and sometimes the fallopian tubes and ovaries, too. 

  • Gallbladder Removal (Cholecystectomy)

Gallstones are small formations that can block the flow of bile to other organs. The usual way to treat it is to remove the gallbladder. People can live a healthy life without this organ.

  • Heart Bypass Surgery

Coronary artery disease is when plaque reduces blood flow to the heart muscle, possibly causing a heart attack. To prevent this, surgeons will connect a healthy artery to the blocked one. This creates a new way for blood to flow to the heart muscle. 

OR Equipment

Unsurprisingly, the operating room is extensively equipped in order to handle the many different kinds of surgeries. The key pieces of equipment found in virtually all is the operating table and the anesthesia cart. Other notables include: 

  • Anesthesia Machine
  • Anesthesia Monitor
  • Video Monitors and Cameras
  • EKG Machine
  • Operating Table
  • Operating Lights
  • Defibrillator
  • Case Cart (contains necessary surgical instruments in a sterile environment) 
  • Crash Cart (contains materials, drugs, and devices necessary to perform a code) 
  • Specialty Cart
  • Desk / Computer

In addition, there are tables to set up instruments, storage space for common surgical supplies, and containers for wastes and disposables. 

Importance of Using Medical Computers in OR 

Medical computers used in an operating room are used to pull up and update patient electronic medical records (EMR) and display patient monitoring software like vital signs. These critical functions means they must be built to withstand the rigors of the OR.

Medical Grade 

Medical computers have been tested and certified to deal with hazards like fire, ignition from flammable anesthetics, electrical shock, mechanical impact, excessive electrical energy output, and radiation. They will not interfere with potentially life-sustaining or saving nearby medical devices like an anesthesia machine.

Antimicrobial Properties

Computers with antimicrobial abilities can ward off growth of microorganisms on their surfaces. This can be done through a sprayed-on application or actually baking an antimicrobial resin into the casing itself. The advantage of the latter is there is no need for constant disinfection from staff.

Fanless Design

Operating rooms, ICUs, and NICUs are near-sterile environments to prevent infections of their patients, many of whom are in critical condition. To help maintain that sterility, medical computers should be fanless. This means they stay cool without the use of fans, which can circulate deadly pathogens through the air. Fanless computers are also extremely quiet, which helps patients rest, speeding up their recovery. 

RFID Reader

According to the American Society of Anesthesiologists, surgical teams leave between 4,500 to 6,000 items in patients’ bodies per year. These can range from surgical sponges to needles. Medical computers like a medical tablet can help track such items. Such a portable computer can be equipped with a built-in RFID-enabled reader. The surgical team, before winding down, can quickly pull up all scanned items to make sure they’re all accounted for.  

Closing Comment

The operating room is used to perform surgeries from repairing a broken bone to altering a person’s appearance. Medical devices and equipment in the department need to function properly in this environment where infections can be lethal. Medical grade and fanless design are just a couple of features that should be on healthcare IT’s checklist for computers in an OR.

If your medical group or hospital wants help with such vital equipment, contact a representative from Cybernet. As a true device manufacturer, Cybernet can customize products to meet your specific needs in a timely and cost-effective manner. 

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