Determining the Quality of LED Surgical Lights

Determining the Quality of LED Surgical Lights

Assessing quality LED surgery lights

Today, LED technology has become the de facto standard for powering all modern lighting solutions coming into the medical, procedure, and surgical market. 

If you are planning to add or replace exam, procedure, or surgical lights at your medical facility there is no doubt these will be LED-based technology.  The common benefits are evident and well-known by now. 

Common Advantages of LED Lighting Include: 

  • Longer Life Bulbs 
  • More Energy Efficient 
  • Less Heat Output 
  • Lighter Equipment Requirements 
  • More Compact Form Factors 

Making An Informed Investment

Surgical lights are no small investment and there are many options available with price differences in the tens of thousands of dollars. At this point, the real research should be centered on the quality of the LED lights you are considering for purchase.  While LED is a superior technology, not all LED lights are created equally.  Given the critical nature of your purchase, it’s important to understand what you are looking for and what to expect from a quality vendor. You don’t want to pay thousands extra for no extra benefit, but you do want to select lighting that is reliable and will stand the test of time.

During the purchasing process, assessing the below characteristics will be helpful to ensure your investment. With the right new system, you should be able to expect performance and reliability for many years to come.

Characteristics Helpful in Assessing Quality LED Lights

Are the LED chips components well manufactured?   

The quality of LED light depends on a LED chip. The best chips are made by USA and Japan-based manufacturers such as Cree, Nichia, Toyota Gosei, and high-level manufacturers in Korea and China such as Epistar, Vivozon, San’an Opto, Seoul Viosys, ETi, and TongFang. Companies sourcing their LEDs for medical use should be identifying and verifying the quality of the chips going into their finished product.  The material of the chip as well as its size makes the main difference. Larger chips are brighter, more stable, and they live longer.  You pay for what you get and the components are more expensive than most of the lesser-quality chips coming from Southeast Asia. China is by far the largest producer of LED chips and the quality, price, and intended use of these products can vary tremendously.   

If the vendor or manufacturer does not have adequate staff or quality systems in place to identify the right component parts it could be a sign to look elsewhere. Focus on companies that are FDA registered and have documented quality systems like ISO9001 or the medical-designated ISO 13485 in place.

Do the LED lights have superior thermal heat management? 

LED lights certainly are longer lasting than previous lighting technology such as incandescent and halogen options.  There are caveats to this however, they only last longer IF they can be free from excess heat and moisture!  Heat, moisture, and unstable electrical voltage will drastically change the life expectancy of all LED lights.  Most lights used for medical and surgical applications are rated for between 40,000 and 60,000 hours of use.  Depending on the product you could have anywhere from 5 to 100 of these individual LED light chips.  For the lights to last as long as they are rated it is critical that the product has an equal quality thermal heat management system to shield the LED from moisture and pull the heat away from the chip to dissipate it slowly away from the surgical field.  

If you have experienced issues with LEDs in the past one of the above factors could have played a key role. 

More specifically, reliable LED lights need to have metal heat sinks with wings to route and store the heat away from the key components while not interfering with the medical work area.  Products that cut costs will use less expensive components with fans or plastic heat syncs which are much more likely to fail and reduce the life of the light chip. 

Does the light system have a high Color Rendering Index rating? 

When considering a light for medical patient use there are a few key features that matter more than others that can directly impact the level of care.  CRI ( Color Rendering Index ) is one of these features.   

When examining a condition or identifying critical aspects of the human anatomy it is critical to be able to see a bright and clear field that illuminates the true color of the environment.  This would be what you would expect to see outside in natural sunlight.  Poor color rendering can lead to misdiagnosis, unnecessary exploration, questions, and even surgical errors. 


Don’t solely focus on color temperature output.  For example, 5000K is close to the color temperature viewed outside on a sunny day.  What matters for CRI is the spectral composition of the individual bands of color that make up the 5000K color output.  Natural white light has specific colors of the rainbow that are its component parts.  High-quality artificial LED lights can better emulate each of the spectrum components.  Low-quality artificial LED lights create the 5000K color temperature but do not include all of the colors of the natural light spectrum.  For this reason, different objects will not render as vibrant or accurate under the lower quality LEDs even though they produce the same general temperature color.  This is especially true as the LUX or intensity of the light is increased. 

Quality medical lighting offers a very high CRI rating.  This number has been rising on a scale from 0 to 100 over time and as of 2022 a CRI of 95 or above should be considered excellent and provide the results you would expect.

Additional Quality Considerations

There are more features often included in quality LED surgical lighting.  Some of these mean additional investment so it is important to understand what features and options add real value to your organization and the medical applications being provided. 

  • Uniform Light Pattern:  As the light field is enlarged, high-quality lights are able to maintain a uniform high-intensity central light pattern despite the larger overall light field. 
  • Uniform Intensity:  Quality lights quickly lose maximum output as the focus of the light field is enlarged.  High-quality products are able to maintain this at a much higher level.  
  • Depth of Illumination:  This is the target area away from the light where bright focused light is provided to the surgery or procedure area.  A deep area of workable illumination provides more flexibility in the position of the patient, practitioner, and light head.  For a large surgical light head, this would be in the range of 45cm to 65cm. 
  • Low Heat Emission:  Less heat added to the surgical field is a significant benefit and important for both patient and practitioner.  
  • Precise and Reliable Adjustable Arms:  Absolutely critical for a stable, safe, and effective workflow to have lights that stay in place and do not drift. 
  • Available Arm Mount Accessories:  Such as cameras, monitors, and additional light heads 
  • Ergonomic Controls:  Easy cleaning, color adjustment, and intensity adjustment 
  • Convenient Control Systems:  Easy onboard controls as well as available wall and modern wireless digital options 
  • Physical Appearance:  Lights that are modern, attractive, and streamlined help add confidence to staff, patients, and visitors.  Although it has no impact on direct patient care, it can provide a psychological benefit and create a better impression and overall experience. 
  • Video and imaging system compatibility:  Understand the types of camera options available and how they are integrated.  Ideally, the system will be open and not require proprietary imaging technology. 
  • Individual or Sync Control: to adjust settings on each unit or on all units at the same time 
  • Backup Batteries:  For extra insurance in the operating room or for portable units for specialized use. 
  • Presets:  One-click shortcut options for the most common types of procedures and activities your facility and physicians provide on a regular basis 

Pay For What Matters

Higher-priced systems are not necessarily higher-quality systems.  Do your homework, in many cases facilities pay higher prices based on a brand or vendor pricing strategy.  Know what is important for your facility and what your goals are.  

You may consider paying a premium for: 

  • Quality of manufacture 
  • Companies that are proven and have been operating for decades 
  • Companies that specialize in lighting 
  • The amount of support, training, and service you expect to need 
  • A longer manufacturer’s warranty 
  • The value added from the physical presence of the product 
  • Modern and attractive form factor 
  • Special features that relate directly to your facilities procedures and workflow 

If you are in the market for updated medical and surgical lights Infinium can provide you with quality options and provide guidance on things you should consider in the process. Contact us for a quote or advice for your next project.


Assessing quality LED surgery lights


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