Ceilings are not overlooked. Monitors that free up valuable floor space are often attached to ceiling-mounted cantilevers that can have multiple arms and also serve as conduits for gases needed for anesthesia. Ultraviolet cleaning systems that remove bacteria and viruses can be anchored in the ceilings to aid in disinfection. The space above the ceiling is often larger to accommodate a range of cables and other electronic equipment, in addition to piping with sophisticated air filtration systems.
Access to the space above the ceiling as well as behind the walls has become important so that technical problems can be investigated and fixed in hours, rather than closing a room for lengthy repairs. For example, some hospitals are currently considering prefabricated stainless steel wall systems for their operating suites because they are both easier to clean and easier to remove if the electronics hidden behind the hiding place break, Ms. Saba said.
Other important factors are lighting and noise. When it comes to increasingly common laparoscopic surgeries, monitors that surgeons guide are lit, but the overhead lights can be turned off to reduce glare, said Dr. Hawn.
That "can be a little dangerous because it can be pretty dark and people bump into or trip over things," she added. "We now have the green light, which means we can see a sharp image on the monitors without the glare you get from the white light."
Noise is distracting at best, but it has physical effects such as high blood pressure, especially on employees who are exposed over a long period of time. High decibel levels are "associated with increased communication difficulties, which are the greatest source of avoidable errors in the hospital environment," said John Medina, associate professor in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Washington, in an email.
At Loma Linda University Medical Center in California, which is slated to open a new hospital on its campus this year, the walls of the operating room are being built to reduce both external noise and vibration. Air duct mufflers are also used by Allison Ong, the campus transformation director.