Decreasing SSIs with Thoughtful OR Design

Wednesday, November 14, 2018
Image: surgeons in an operating room

Decreasing Surgical Site Infections with Thoughtful Planning and Smart Operating Room Design

In operating rooms (ORs), some of the most critical life-saving procedures are performed and health care personnel’s skills are put to the ultimate test. The OR is also one of the most infection-sensitive environments in a health care facility. While undergoing surgical operations, patients are more susceptible to bacteria transmitted from health care staff, equipment, and the air.

Although several factors cause SSIs, the health care facility planning team plays a critical role in decreasing infection risks. Planners, designers, and architects have the opportunity to make operating rooms safer and effectively help prevent SSIs by using smart, research-based design strategies that enhance the structural features of an OR.

Take into account the estimated volume and type of procedures taking place in the operating room, the number of staff members needed, and the equipment necessary. Personnel and patient flow should be deliberately mapped out in a logical way with a focus on keeping clean and contaminated areas separate.

Air Quality
During procedures, debris such as dust, skin, fibers, and more are released into the air and can contaminate the surgical area. Ensuring an aseptic airborne environment by designing to accommodate suitable airflow, ventilation, and HVAC systems is crucial to preventing microbial contamination during surgery. Similarly, a vital factor in preventing microbial proliferation is taking measures to ensure the OR meets the recommended relative humidity levels of 20% to 60%; measures such as installing liquid desiccant dehumidification units.

Surface Materials
The risk of surgical infection can be dramatically reduced through smart surface material selection. Surface areas should be easy to clean, waterproof, fireproof, and stain resistant. Ledges and corners that are more difficult to clean should be minimized. Floors should be comfortable for long periods of standing, water resistant, appropriate for wheeled traffic, and a color such that items can be easily found if dropped.

Continuous Disinfection
New technologies that incorporate continuous disinfection into the facility have recently emerged. These approaches provide a clean and safe environment for the patient without the need for additional labor and supplies. One example is visible light disinfection, an overhead light fixture that continuously disinfects the environment while emitting light that is safe for patients and health care personnel.

Careful planning and thoughtful design make safer ORs and decrease the number of SSIs, improving the patient experience and reducing health care costs.

Planning your schedule for the PDC Summit? Attend one of these related sessions:

  • How Large Should the OR Be? A Multi-Disciplinary Systems Approach to Designing Safer ORs
  • Controlling Operating Room Relative Humidity with Liquid Desiccant Dehumidification Technology
  • Planning the Hybrid OR