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Let There Be Light

Wed, 05/01/2013 - 1:46pm
Mike Schmidt, Editor, Surgical Products

What constitutes good or sufficient surgical lighting in today’s operating room is not the same as it was just a few short years ago.
 
Advancements in technology and product development have sparked an ongoing evolution of lighting products. As a result, the needs, wants, and expectations of hospitals and medical facilities have grown and evolved as well.

According to Linda Donaldson, VP of Cool-View, a provider of LED medical headlights, her customers want and expect for lighting products to improve surgeries and exams, save them money, as well as support sustainable healthcare.

“Providers are under constant pressure to save time and treat patients quickly – without compromising care,” she explains. “By offering more features and benefits, today’s lights help reduce these pressures so practitioners can be more productive and focus on their most important task, which is enhancing patient care."

Key Considerations

According to Donaldson, purchasers looking for new lighting options should consider buying from manufacturers that are members of Practice Greenhealth, the nation’s leading membership and networking organization for institutions in the healthcare community that have made a commitment to sustainable, eco-friendly practices.

Furthermore, they should also consider buying from manufacturers that have the (EPA) ENERGY STAR Partnership, she says.  Through this partnership with the EPA, manufacturers work to continually enhance energy efficiency and sustainability in their products, processes, and manufacturing across the globe.

The Rise Of LED

Incandescent, halogen-style bulbs with fiber-optic cables were long the standard for surgical lighting products. However, lighting providers weren’t satisfied. Over time, they addressed the fact that these lights needed to be replaced on a regular basis, were inefficient, and gave off a considerable amount of heat.
 
The last 15 years have seen technology change so much and so quickly, that what’s now the standard in most operating rooms is completely different from those traditional lighting offerings.
 
LED lights really came into their own about five years ago. Most lighting providers now offer their second-generation lights, which are more or less updated and improved versions of the original design. They serve to lower costs and increase efficiency, and they do not require the bulb or fiber-optic cable to be replaced.
These offerings are designed to enhance and improve visualization in the operating room. That means brighter, whiter light with minimal heat generation. According to Donaldson, today’s lights reduce eye strain due to color temperatures that match natural daylight of 6,500 K. Furthermore, they add the added benefit of truer tissue color and contrast, low maintenance, and green technology.
 
“Superior lights offer industry-leading lumen performance estimated at 50,000-plus hours of life and no heat generation,” says Donaldson. “Operating costs are then reduced by up to 93 percent and maintenance costs are reduced by almost 100 percent due to remarkable warranties and no parts that can break or suffer from wear or tear.”
However, specifications and cost savings are just two critical factors. Another is performance.

Performance Is Everything

“Superior technology will marry up to performance specifications,” says James Townsend, manager, research and development, for Bertchtold, a provider of surgical lights and other equipment.  “It will marry up with the mobility and reliability that’s expected of not only the clinicians and the surgical staff, but also the administrators, purchasing agents, and other individuals in the hospital. That’s really a key factor in what makes up a good product versus just a sufficient product.”

Another key factor is how the light works in concert with other items in the operating room. It’s not enough to have a high-performance light. How will it conflict with other items in the room? Is the room set up properly to maximize product performance? Perhaps most importantly, how is the light positioned?

“When we’re doing trials or observations in the field, we’re always taking a look at how often the surgeons have to touch the light, how much they actually have to maneuver the light,” says Townsend. “Once they’ve positioned them correctly, assuming the patient is not moving, a good light shouldn’t have to be repositioned constantly. It should be providing the right light at the right spot.”

While surgical lights remain the preeminent centerpiece of the operating room, they have to be built around some of the other critical systems. This ensures they can be used for interventional situations, while at the same time meeting performance needs.
 
“The lighting is becoming a component of the complete visualization in the operating room,” says Townsend.

Working In Concert

How surgical lighting reacts with new technology in hybrid and integrated operation rooms will determine just how it will evolve in the future. Surgical headlights and portable exam lights that operate on rechargeable batteries that can attach to the surgeon’s belt or on a portable stand (as opposed to their head) can allow them and their assistants to move freely  without being tethered to a stationary light source. This is just one way providers are finding ways to improve offerings.
 
While the future is uncertain in terms of continued product development, it seems safe to say the efficiency and longevity of the product will only increase.
 
I think that LED technology is always evolving,” says Townsend “It’s not a new technology, but its application in surgical lighting is newer. There’s this constant push toward higher efficiency that also echoes well with what hospitals are pursuing to lower operating costs and to ensure they are meeting green certifications.
“An LED with 50,000-plus hours of use is a buy-and-forget proposition,” he continues. “With little maintenance or preventative maintenance, it will provide 10-years-plus of continuous, uninterrupted, non-performance-degrading use. That will only get better."

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