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operating room

Alternative Names
OR, surgery suite

The operating room is the place where most surgery takes place. The operating room may be inside a hospital, a same day surgery facility, or even a doctor's office.

What is the information for this topic?
The surgery prep area is where a person is prepared for surgery. Here, people are often asked to remove their clothes and put on a hospital gown. Questions are asked about the person's medical history, allergies, and other information. A meeting with the anesthesiologist often occurs at this time. This is the doctor who controls the anaesthesia, which are the medications given to make sure no pain is felt during the surgery.

Medications may be given before the operation. This depends on the surgery and the person's medical history. A sedative is often given to help relax the person. Many people are drowsy or even sleeping before they get to the operating room.

A person is brought to the operating room by wheelchair or on a portable bed with wheels. The person is then moved onto the operating table. The operating table is at the centre of most operating rooms. Around the operating table may be various other tables. These hold the equipment needed for the operation.

The anaesthesia and monitoring equipment are kept at the head of the bed. This is where the anesthesiologist sits and monitors the person during surgery. Several of the operating room staff may already be in the room. Usually, at least one nurse and one technical assistant are present. Other people may be there as well, depending on the surgery. The operating room staff wear special outfits called "scrubs." Caps, masks, and rubber gloves may also be worn. These help protect both the person having surgery and the operating room staff against infection.

Once the person is correctly positioned on the table, the anesthesiologist enters the room. More medication is given to cause relaxation and, sometimes, sleep. In some types of surgery, the person is put totally to sleep with general anaesthesia. In other cases, the person may be awake but a local anaesthesia or regional anaesthesia is used to prevent feeling pain.

At this point, the surgeon comes in and the final preparation begins. The area of the surgery is often cleaned with an antibacterial chemical. A sterile drape is then put around the area of the surgery. Many people are already asleep or heavily sedated at this point.

The surgery is then performed. If a person is not asleep and feels uncomfortable, more medication can be given. After the surgery, the medication is turned off and the person slowly wakes up. Once in a stable condition, the person is brought to the surgery recovery room.

Author: Adam Brochert, MD
Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia
Last Updated: 1/10/2001
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

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