MadSci Network: Medicine

Re: why are operating rooms kept so cold?

Date: Mon Dec 17 00:41:21 2001
Posted By: Joshua Chai, Medical student, Medical Sciences, University of Cambridge
Area of science: Medicine
ID: 1006128286.Me

Hi Barbara,

Aha! Your suggestion is a good try!! The chance of electrostatic spark 
causing explosion of anaesthetic gases is EXTREMELY RARE these days 
because in modern operating theatre (OTs) all the plastic-ware, shoes and 
the floor are made of conducting material, so everything is 
like “earthed” (no net charge building up…). In fact, in my experience, 
operating theatre is not always as cold as you might suggest. If you 
think physiologically, there are actually reasons to argue against a 
lowered OT room temperature. First, even room temperature (something like 
20 degree Celsius) is already nearly 20 degrees lower than our body 
temperature so the body is already losing heat; this is worsen by the 
body being stationary and the general cardio-respiratory depression 
caused by general anaesthesia. So the main objective should be to 
maintain body temperature during lengthy surgery. 

However, you almost certainly feel quite “windy” when you step inside an 
OT. This is because OTs are maintained in a positive-pressure ventilation 
system, i.e. filtered air is blown from the surgical suite out into the 
surrounding area in order to prevent contamination inside the OTs. The 
reason you feel cooler temperature might be the combination of 
this “windiness” together with the cool surface of the surgical table and 
the excitement/nervousness being inside an OT.

I hope this helps…

Joshua Chai
Medical Student
University of Cambridge, UK

Current Queue | Current Queue for Medicine | Medicine archives

Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Medicine.

MadSci Home | Information | Search | Random Knowledge Generator | MadSci Archives | Mad Library | MAD Labs | MAD FAQs | Ask a ? | Join Us! | Help Support MadSci

MadSci Network,
© 1995-2001. All rights reserved.