Surgeons have dozens of high-tech tools and medical devices at their disposal in the modern surgical suite. None of these tools are as important as surgical light. The foundation for every procedure is clear visualization.
Adequate light is critical for every surgeon and every type of procedure. If the surgeon can’t see the surgical field clearly, then patient safety is at risk. But the wrong light can also be harmful to medical professionals.
Needing light for surgery might seem obvious, but there are a lot of factors to consider when choosing the right surgical light for your medical practice or hospital.
The Importance of Modern Medical Light
Surgical and exam lights are common in today’s medical practices. Illuminating the surgical field or examination area is an important foundation for any procedure. Light and shadow let medical staff see the complex structures of the human body in detail.
Early surgeries relied on daylight and candlelight. These light sources weren’t ideal because they aren’t steady, and medical staff can’t control them. Relying on daylight meant a cloudy day could interfere with a doctor’s ability to perform a procedure.
Before electric lights were invented, hospitals built operating rooms with large windows facing south to maximize sun exposure. They hung mirrors in the corners of the ceilings to try to increase the amount of light in the room but were still ultimately unable to control the lighting conditions.
Electric lights, introduced in the late 1800s, revolutionized operating rooms. The ability to focus light on a specific area and turn it on at-will was a major improvement. While early lights weren’t very bright or steady, they were better than candles. Since then, surgical light has only continued to improve.
Advances in Surgical and Exam Lights
Every new type of lightbulb has improved medical light in one way or another. The most noticeable improvement is an increase in brightness. Lighting professionals measure this brightness using lumens and lux.
Lumens refer to how much energy an object (such as a bulb or candle flame) releases as light. A lux measurement describes how many lumens are in a square meter. The higher the lux number, the brighter the light is.
Halogen bulbs, first introduced in the 1960s, had much higher lux measurements than their incandescent predecessors. These, in turn, gave way to gas discharge lamps for the same reason.
Gas discharge lamps were the norm for hospitals and medical centers in the 1990s because of how much lux they produce. They could produce up to 200,000 lux. Unfortunately, they also led to eye strain for medical professionals and poor patient outcomes.
To solve this problem, medical professionals turned to LED surgical lights. Light-emitting diode lights, or LEDs, reduce eyestrain without sacrificing large lux measurements. They are also vastly more energy-efficient than previous bulb types.
LED bulbs tend to measure 160,000 lux. Gas discharge lamps taught us that brighter is not always a better quality or useful light. Too much brightness can impede a surgeon’s ability to see, causing glare and tiring out the eyes quickly.
Types of Surgical Light
The amount of light produced isn’t the only consideration a hospital has to make when choosing its surgical lights. The amount of ambient heat a lamp produces, the lifespan of the bulb, the color of the light, and the ability to keep the lamp sterile are all important factors to consider.
Older bulb types, like halogens and incandescents, had shortcomings for some or all of these factors. Halogens and incandescents in particular generate more heat than light because they heat a filament to produce light. Not only is this inefficient energy use, but it’s also not good for medical practice.
LED Surgical Light Benefits
LED lights are a good choice for all of these factors and use LED bulbs with a 50,000-hour plus lifespan, they emit limited heat, and they are easy to clean.
A long lifespan for a bulb saves the hospital money on bulb replacements, and it also helps protect patients. The longer a bulb’s lifespan, the less likely it is to fail in the middle of a procedure. Modern light systems have failsafe mechanisms in place for unexpected power failures, but the fewer opportunities for failure the better.
Any light source produces heat alongside the light. It’s important to keep this heat to a minimum for patient safety and the comfort of the medical staff. LED light bulbs emit almost no heat, limiting the temperature increase around the surgical field to 2° C (35° F) at most.
LED bulbs produce pure white light, which is extremely important to good visualization. White light makes it easier to distinguish between different textures and colors which is critical in surgery.
These bulbs are a practical tool on their own, but there are numerous pieces of equipment that can use LED lights effectively in medical practice. The number of bulbs and their configuration can provide light for the needs of any surgical suite or operating room.
Ambient Light Vs. Focused Light
There are two kinds of light that medical professionals need during a procedure. Ambient light refers, in general, to the light in an exam room or OR. Focused light is light with a more specific beam and destination.
Both types of light are necessary for a medical practice or hospital setting. The light needs to illuminate the field, even when medical staff’s heads or hands might be in the path of the light.
Headlamps are a good example of focused light, while overhead lights are a good example of ambient light. While both are important for surgery, focused light requires more specialized equipment.
The size of the surgical field, the type of procedure, and a surgeon’s preference are all factors in the type of focused light needed for a medical practice. For some doctors and medical staff, a large floor-stand exam light might fulfill their needs while others might require a headlamp too.
Ceiling and Wall Mounted Surgical Lights
Where the light source is in the room can make a big impact on how effective it is as focused light. If a light only faces one direction, it has limited usefulness in a medical context. The most effective lights provide abundant ambient light while still providing focused light on the surgical field.
Ceiling-mounted and wall-mounted surgical light systems are versatile because they can be adjusted to multiple angles. This lets medical staff move the light to the exact position they need for a given procedure.
Many ceiling-mounted light systems are compatible with accessories that let you adjust them during a procedure while staying sterile. Handles that can be covered with single-use plastic sleeves are a good example of these accessories. This is useful if medical staff has to change positions in the middle of a procedure.
Floor-stand lights are another good option for flexible lighting. These lights are mounted on wheeled stands that let you move them around the room or even move them from one room to another.
This configuration works well for examination lights. They can also be useful in combination with a mounted light system to provide additional light coverage.
Headlamps and Loupes
The best way to get extremely focused high-intensity light is with a headlamp or loupe. Loupes are common in surgery and dentistry specialties, as mouths and other body cavities are prone to shadows.
Because doctors wear them on their bodies, loupes and headlamps are more personal purchases. They supplement the light in a room rather than providing the primary light source for a procedure.
Headlamps and loupes have the same benefits as other LED lights, just in a smaller and more specific context. They are just the beginning of a wide variety of smaller surgical light tools.
Lighted Surgical Tools
There are constantly new innovations in medical tools, and lights are no exception. Medical tools equipped with light can help surgeons see better inside the surgical field by lighting it from the inside.
As surgical incisions get smaller, visualization gets harder, so the more light the better. Retractors and scopes now have lighted options to provide illumination in places where an overhead light or headlamp couldn’t reach.
Find the Right LED Surgical Light
Every medical professional knows how important it is to choose the right surgical light. The comfort of your staff and the success of your patients start with the basics.
LED surgical lights are a versatile light option that fit a wide variety of needs. Contact us today for more information on the full range surgical lighting options.