At times, we may have misconceptions about the reasons behind certain practices or procedures, and it’s important to understand the true rationale behind them. One such common misconception is that operating rooms are kept cold to prevent infection. However, the reality is quite different, and in this article, we will explore the heated debate around temperatures in the operating room.
Contrary to popular belief, the most important person in the operating room is the patient. Anesthesia causes a significant redistribution of warm blood from the center of the body to the periphery, resulting in rapid heat loss. This effect is compounded by the cold operating room temperatures. Hypothermia can cause surgical site infections, cardiac issues, bleeding, and dysfunction of different organ systems.
Studies have shown that decreased core body temperature during surgery is associated with longer stays in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU). To prevent these complications, anesthesiologists use various methods to keep patients warm, including forced air warming devices and warm IV fluids. It’s also worth noting that monitoring a patient’s temperature during surgery is a standard of care during general anesthesia.
But why are operating rooms kept cold?
The main reason is to keep the surgical team comfortable. Surgeons prefer a cool, dry climate to accommodate for the hats, masks, gloves, and gowns they wear, and the fact that they work under bright, hot lights. Anesthesia personnel, on the other hand, are typically not as physically active or heavily clothed as surgeons and desire a warmer, less breezy climate.
Measures of performance of the surgical team and the anesthesia team have been studied under different environmental temperatures in the operating room. It’s been found that people feel like their performance is not as good when they’re uncomfortably hot, and they also feel frustrated. But on objective measures of performance, there’s actually no difference in terms of feeling uncomfortably hot versus just comfortable.
It’s interesting to note that surgeons have an optimal operating room temperature of 19 degrees Celsius, while anesthesiologists prefer 21.5 degrees Celsius. However, it’s easy to change the temperature in the operating room, and the air turns over very frequently. It’s recommended that the air in the room is changed 20 times per hour.
In conclusion, it’s crucial to understand the true rationale behind practices and procedures to ensure patient safety and to optimize surgical outcomes. While operating rooms are kept cold to keep the surgical team comfortable, it’s important to prioritize the patient’s well-being by keeping them warm during surgery. Anesthesiologists have various methods at their disposal to achieve this, and monitoring a patient’s temperature during surgery is a standard of care. By understanding the rationale behind operating room temperatures, we can ensure that surgical teams are comfortable, while patients receive the best possible care.