Saturday, August 13, 2016

Riding the Rails with Old School Operating Room Lights

An old school operating room  light source the size of a pitcher's mound riding on extruded
steel rails. Look out here comes Casey Jones.
I just love operating room lights especially ones with unique features like this super-adjustable rail mounted beauty.  The rail mounting provides for the ultimate in adjustability. This baby can be moved up and down the full length of the table which is ideal in trauma cases that cover a wide territory.  This is what I would call a "fill' light" to complement the pedestal mounted smaller main light visible just below and to the left. Modern surgeons and scrub nurses probably look down their masks  on these old pole and rail  mounted lights, but they could be moved virtually anywhere to illuminate any operative site from any angle. Try that with your super duper overhead LED modern light.

A modern operating room light after being attacked by a
weighted speculum swinging surgeon who was frustrated
that it could not properly illuminate a vag hyst. Next time
try a pedestal mounted light.
One of the general surgery rooms that we used for trauma had that massive rail mounted overhead light. Trauma surgeons move around a lot and that rail mounted ball of sunshine can follow them up and down the table as they tend to wounds in various locations. Modern trauma surgeons frequently substitute with  those fiberoptic forehead mounted lights, but they really don't know what their missing.

Dr. Slambow even taught me some non surgical uses for operating room lighting systems. When
that call room phone rings at 3AM and you can't seem to clear out the cobwebs, just drag your keister out of bed and into an unused OR. Now the fun begins, switch on that overhead monstrous OR light and stare straight into it. Those brilliant photons will travel directly to the target organ (your snoozing brain) immediately jostling it awake. This works better than holding your head under the scrub sink faucet and blasting it with  cold water. I know because I have tried both and would opt for the light treatment every time. The bright light treatment even leaves your hair doo intact.

If it's Winter and your frozen fingers need thawed after that cold stroll to the hospital, just try holding them a couple of inches above an operating room light. A minute or two and that much needed dexterity returns. The scrub nurse has the warm water from the scrub sink and the circulator has the lights. Both methods are equally effective. It is not considered good form to use a patients body heat to warm your hands. Dr. Slambow told war stories about how he could not wait to warm his hands digging the shrapnel from some poor soul's belly. It used to give me the creeps thinking about war injuries  and made me grateful for warm water and lights. Dealing with traumatic gunshot wounds in Chicago was enough of a challenge for me and really made war time doctors and nurses seem like a very special breed.

Every important event requires a dramatic start; The Indy 500 has pace cars, track stars have guns and operating rooms have brilliant overhead lights. When that rail mounted illuminating source was fired up it was time to cease that useless chit-chat about that  funny smelling Roquefort cheese like substance you just removed from the patient's belly button during the prep scrub. Everyone knew when that big light glowed that it was all business.

I used to love that smooth hum of the ball bearings as the light moved up and down the rails over the table and then there was that reassuring clunk noise as that brilliant monster locked into place. For your enlightenment, the Oldfoolrn acoustic research laboratory has discovered a way to replicate the noise sound of one of these glorious OR lights being adjusted. Simply visit your friendly Home Depot Store and proceed directly to the appliance department. If a helpful employee approaches (not likely at my local store) just ask to see the KitchenAid dishwashers. Open the appliance and pull that top rack in and out a few times. The stainless steel interior of the dishwasher  acts as a sound board and amplifies that purring of the ball bearings. Now to replicate the OR light locking into place just slam the dishwasher door shut, You have just experienced the melodious sounds of a massive operating room light being adjusted and locked into place. If you want to experience the noise the rail mounted light makes when it slams into one of the bumpers at rails end be sure to stop in the hardware section and pick up a heavy rubber mallet. To simulate that bumper thump just drop the mallet  onto the floor with the business end toward the floor Now you whippersnapperrns really have something to tell your  mother about.

When you hear the surgeon proclaim, "That operation went just like a shopping trip to the Home Depot store," you know where his terminology came from.


  1. To add excitement to very mundane procedures, I recommend mounting a squad car light bar overhead.

  2. Thanks for the tip. That sounds like a good way to add some excitement to routine cases. Flashing lights always seem to get my adrenalin going. Starting fluid for the brain!

  3. Thanks a lot for sharing us about this update. Hope you will not get tired on making posts as informative as this.

  4. Nice to read your article! I am looking forward to sharing your adventures and experiences.
    Flush Mount Lights