Have you ever wondered what is so special about surgical lights? Why can’t conventional lights be used for surgery? To understand what make surgical lights different than conventional lights, here are a few things you should know:

Conventional Lighting and problems with Color Temperature, Heat, and Shadows:

Conventional lights don’t produce a very high character of ‘whiteness’. Surgeons rely on a lights ‘whiteness’ to see with clarity during a surgery. Normal lights don’t produce enough of the ‘whiteness’ surgeons need. This is why for many years halogen bulbs were used because they give off a higher level of whiteness than incandescent or conventional lights.

Why light colors and “whiteness” matters

Surgeons need to distinguish different tones of flesh colors while preforming surgery, if the light were to have tones of red, blue or green it can be misleading, and change the appearance of the patient’s tissues. Being able to see the flesh tone clearly is vitally important to their work and patient safety. This is called color temperatures and they are measured in kelvins.

Light Color Temperatures

Color temperature indicates how the light appears. The lower the Kelvins the more yellow the light appears. This generally is referred to as “warm white”. The other end of the spectrum would be “daylight” whiter light color.

Heat and Radiation:

Another effect a conventional light can have is heat. When a light is focused on an area for an extended period of time, which is often sometimes needed to perform major operations, the light can produce a thermal radiation heat that will dry out the exposed tissues.

Light Shadows:

Shadows are another thing that interfere with a surgeon’s perception and accuracy while preforming a surgery. There are Contour shadows and Contrast Shadows. Contour Shadows are a good thing, they help the surgeon distinguish different tissues and variations. Contrast shadows on the other hand cause a problem and obstruct the surgeons view.
Eliminating contrast shadows is why surgery lights often have dual or triple light heads and multiple bulbs on each light head, allowing the light to illuminate from different angles.

Surgical Lights and Evolving Technology:

The last few years there has been a change in the type of lights used during surgery in operating rooms. Surgeons used to work under halogen lights. Halogen worked well but had key shortcomings. The problem with halogen lights was surgeons found themselves having to work around poorly placed shadows, having to make judgement calls on the color of tissue during an operation, and the heat of the lights drying out exposed tissue.
Then it all changed. Surgical light now comes from pure white LEDs.

The Revolution of LED lighting and Surgery Lights

LED lights transformed surgical lighting. How? LEDs supply a higher level of ‘whiteness’ at a much lower temperature than halogen lights. This works because LEDs are semiconductors and produce less heat energy.
With LEDs make it possible to have multiple light heads per unit-something halogens could not do without increasing heat and risk of drying out exposed tissue. LED light color is more consistent and doesn’t produce the ‘yellow’ color halogen bulbs do.
The problem with halogen lights is the bulb needs large amounts of energy to produce the ‘whiteness’ surgeons needed. LEDs solve this issue by rendering light twenty percent higher than halogen lights. This means that LED surgical lights make it easier for the surgeon to distinguish between subtle differences in color. Not only that, LED lights carry a lower cost than Halogen.

The Cost Savings of LEDs

One reason you invest in LED technology is the cost, a halogen light can:
*Consume more electricity
*Produce more heat which creates extra precautions
*Needs replaced 10X more often
*Can fail in power outages of or spikes

LEDs lifetime costs for surgical lights are lower than halogen powered lights.

Final Thoughts on Surgical Lights vs Conventional Lights

Surgical lights carry unique requirements that normal lights cannot provide. Headlights, flood lamps, and retail lightning provide lots of light, but fail to provide the quality of light surgeons need.