Choosing the Right Surgical Light

Surgical lights, also known as operating lights, are a piece of lighting equipment used mainly in surgery, as their name suggests. They have the particularity of diffusing a homogeneous light, without shadows, over the area to be operated on.

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  • What are the criteria for choosing a surgical light?

    When you decide to buy a surgical light, you should take several criteria into account, such as light uniformity, the light field diameter, and the type of bulbs.

    Below we list the criteria that are important to take into account.

    • Lighting uniformity: This is essential because a person’s vision is only fully effective in an evenly illuminated field. If the light coming from the spotlight is not homogeneous, it could be a problem with the quality of the equipment itself, which will create areas of shadow, forcing the healthcare professional to adjust the lighting frequently. However, most surgical lights have thick lenses that guarantee uniform light distribution, properly illuminating the operating field, both in terms of area and depth.
    • Light field diameter: This is the area illuminated by the surgical light at a certain distance. Make sure that the diameter of the light field is suitable for the various uses envisaged.
    • Lighting intensity: This should be between 8,000 and 36,000 lux. In general, the intensity of the light can be adjusted to suit the requirements of the various surgical procedures.
    • Type of bulbs: You can choose between halogen surgical lights or LED surgical lights. Neutral white LEDs allow you to easily identify red and yellow tones, making it easy to distinguish tissues and organs. Most do not emit significant amounts of blue light, which is harmful to the retina with prolonged exposure (see next section). The yellow light typical of certain halogen lamps tends to distort color perception, which can be misleading and lead to incorrect diagnoses.
    • Color temperature: Should be approximately 4,500 Kelvin.
    Burton Medical halogen surgical light

    Burton Medical halogen surgical light

  • What type of light bulbs are recommended for surgical lights?

    Dr. Mach LED surgical light

    Dr. Mach LED surgical light

    Today, LED surgical lights are the most common. LEDs have several advantages over halogen bulbs, but they also have their disadvantages.

    Advantages of LEDs include the following:

    • Durability: They last 10 to 12 times longer than halogen bulbs.
    • Energy efficiency: They consume considerably less electricity than halogen bulbs.
    • Minimal heat emission: The heat released by most LEDs is minimal, therefore they do not significantly alter the ambient temperature. As such, LED spotlights ensure greater comfort for the patient and do not dry out the tissues during surgery, for example.

    Disadvantages of LEDs include the following:

    • Blue light is harmful to the retina emitted by some LEDs: Excessive exposure can cause damage to the retina and contribute to the development of various pathologies, such as macular degeneration (AMD). Cold-light LEDs (>5,000 Kelvin) are strongly discouraged because they emit predominantly blue light, also known as high-energy visible light (HEV). Therefore, their use should be limited in equipment used by healthcare professionals daily. We recommend choosing LED bulbs with neutral white light (around 4,500 Kelvin), which have a much smaller blue light component.
    • Cost: Although LED bulbs are more expensive than halogen bulbs, their use pays off as they last longer and consume less energy.
  • What is the recommended lighting intensity?

    BiHealthcare two-arm surgical light

    BiHealthcare two-arm surgical spotlight

    As a general rule, a lighting intensity of 15,000 lux is sufficient.

    It’s important to know that a young eye achieves 98% of its visual acuity at 12,000 lux. The visibility gained with higher lighting intensities is therefore minimal.

    Some current standards recommend surgical lights with a maximum lighting intensity of at least 20,000 lux. It should be noted that very high lighting intensity can be dangerous for healthcare professionals. Beware, therefore, of overly powerful surgical lights.

    However, with increased age, the eye needs stronger and stronger light. Due to the progressive opacification of the cornea, the need for light triples between the ages of 20 and 60. Therefore, a professional at the end of their career may need lighting of 36,000 lux to maintain good visual acuity. Power above this value does not offer significant advantages.

  • What other characteristics should be taken into account when choosing a surgical light?

    Trumpf Medical mobile surgical light

    Trumpf Medical mobile surgical light

    When choosing a surgical light, you can take into account other characteristics such as the accessories available or the weight and mobility of the equipment.

    Available accessories

    • Integrated cameras: Surgical lights with video cameras are equipped with one or more cameras to capture detailed images during surgical procedures. The cameras can be integrated into the body of the surgical light or mounted on an arm. Some equipment includes 4K cameras, stereo microphones, or digital image processing systems.
    • Double arm: Two-arm surgical lights make it possible to combine the lighting from two different-sized lights, if necessary.

    Weight and mobility

    Compact and lightweight surgical lights work for all spaces, from operating rooms to orthodontic offices. For ceiling-mounted or wall-mounted surgical lights, the weight of the light must be taken into account. Mobile surgical lights are equipped with wheels, so they are easy to move from one room to another or between different departments in a hospital.

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