The Operating Room Throughout History

A look at how technological innovation has changed the OR as we know it today

When a surgical team enters an operating room in 2020 to provide a patient with life-saving care, they follow streamlined, data-based processes supported by advanced technologies. But it hasn’t been that way for most of history.

Take a look at this timeline to see how the operating room as we know it today is still relatively new:

8000-5000 BC: The first mentions of surgical interventions is found in the Neolithic period. History says this was the beginning of craniotomy, or more specifically trephining, making holes in the skull by tapping a sharp object with a small hammer. Trephining may have been a part of magic or religious rituals or possibly, because people thought they would exorcise demons from a possessed person. Later, the procedure could have been performed to relieve headaches or seizures. History doesn’t, however, share information on dedicated operating rooms to perform those procedures.

300-500 BC: During this time period, surgical procedures shifted from being a part of rituals to a formal discipline. Hippocrates founded the Hippocratic School of Medicine during this era. Because this was a period of continual war, surgeons performed procedures, including amputations, related to battle-related injuries. Asklpieia, or health centers where sick people could recover emerged, but not formal operating rooms.

825-925 AD: Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariya, “Rhazes,” ran the first Royal Hospital at Ray, Iran, and later at Muqtadari Hospital in Baghdad. He developed treatments for a variety of conditions and illnesses, including the first interventions for cancer, and also established surgical suites.

27-476 AD: During the Roman Empire, surgeries were performed in tents where troops would take wounded soldiers.

476-1453 AD: In the Middle Ages, those early field hospitals were replaced by indoor facilities, sometimes built into the structure of a fort. Rooms dedicated to getting soldiers back into battle as soon as possible came complete with a wooden table for surgery.

1800-1870 AD: Surgical tents made a reappearance during the Napoleonic Wars and the U.S. Civil War. Also, during this era, however, permanent, indoor surgical theaters trended for patient care as well as instructional purposes.

20th Century: The 1900s brought more wars and more need for surgical facilities for soldiers. During the Korean War, mobile army surgical hospitals or MASH units brought capabilities close to the front. In the first half of the century, surgical teams established what most people today would recognize as operating rooms, and began wearing gowns, gloves, masks, and antiseptics. In the later 1900s, medtech advanced. Operating rooms were stocked with disposal products to reduce cross-infection, and monitoring equipment made its debut, eliminating the necessity to manually check heart rate, pulse, blood pressure, temperature, and even blood oxygen levels via fingertip sensor.

Operating Rooms Today: Digitally Transformed 
Healthcare’s focus in the 21st century is on improving patient outcomes and experiences, and operating facilities sustainably and efficiently. To balance patient needs with optimized operations, ORs went digital. 

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Surgical teams have instant, easy access to patient data stored and updated in the healthcare organization’s electronic health record (EHR) system as well as real-time data from monitoring equipment.  

Digital ORs also enable surgical teams to store and access medical images through a picture archiving and communication system (PACS). A PACS eliminates the need to manually retrieve archived images and transport films to the surgical team. Instead, practitioners can view images including X-rays, ultrasound images, CT scans, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) on touchscreens in the OR.  

Additionally, technological advances have enabled the emergency of hybrid operating rooms in which imaging equipment is used during procedures, enabling minimally invasive surgery.  

Touchscreens, such as ADLINK’s MLC 8 series, give healthcare practitioners an easy way to display data and connect and control the technology required for the procedure. The new MLC 8 series focuses on the medical visualization chain, from image acquisition to analysis, processing, digital data display, and image display.  

OR computers and touchscreens also enable the surgical team to synchronize data easily. The monitor can display various feeds, images, and videos from multiple channels and also use the touchscreen to create a record of the procedure for analysis or to include in the patient’s history.  

With today’s ORs so reliant on technology, healthcare facilities must choose computers and panels with:  

  • Versatile interfaces to connect a range of monitors and equipment 
  • Medical compliance and isolated 1/O design, including a Gigabit Ethernet port 
  • Screen design and anti-glare coatings for superior image and video viewing 
  • Hygienic design for easy cleaning and maintenance — which means faster turnaround time for OR preparation  
  • Rugged construction to withstand a hospital environment and cleaning with harsh disinfectants

One of the Benefits of Living in the 21st Century

When patients need surgery in 2020, they don’t have to seek out a magician, visit a surgical tent, or entrust their health to a surgeon with no real-time visibility into their vital statistics. Surgeries are faster and more precise, and patients experience better outcomes.  

For the hospital or surgery center, digital operating rooms mean greater efficiency and the ability to conduct more procedures, helping them to meet their revenue goals and stay operational. Of course, healthcare providers’ primary objective, like it has been throughout history, is the best possible patient care. Technology is now helping them improve on that goal every day.   
Learn more about ADLINK’s medically certified products here

Author: Andre Fortdran
Author: Andre Fortdran

Product Marketing Manager Medical at ADLINK Technology