Different Types of Medical Examination Lights

In medical and surgical rooms proper lighting is essential. Proper medical lighting ensures a clear view and reduces the risk of error.

Unlike general home lighting, medical lights need to have a range of specialty features and properties. For the safety of patients and health workers alike, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) published a list of required surgical light features. This list includes low heat emittance, proper colour rendition and homogenous light.

Besides the type and quality of the light emitted, medical lights may also need to be practical, mobile and versatile. Since space is often a consideration in medical facilities, they may also need to be small and unobtrusive.

Having a poor and rigid lighting system in a medical facility can affect the workers’ performance and, in turn, affect the health of the patients. As a result, it’s important to understand the different types of medical lighting systems and products. It’s also worth thinking about the various settings and contexts that these lights can be used for.

To help you, here is a list of different types of medical examination lights.

Overhead Surgical Lights

Overhead surgical lights provide the foundational lighting to a medical facility. They are essential as they allow health workers to see and navigate the medical/surgical room. Such lights can be mounted on the wall, brought in with wheels or fixed to the ceiling.

To ensure optimal visibility, these overhead surgical lights are much brighter than the average lightbulb in your home. The IEC states that such surgical lights must have central illuminance between 160,000 and 40,000 lux. In such lighting systems, LEDs are often used to provide adequate brightness without the risk of excessive heat emittance. Minimising heat output in surgical lighting is important since excessive heat can potentially damage sensitive tissues and surgical equipment.

In addition, overhead lighting systems are required to have homogenous light. Homogenous light will evenly illuminate flat, narrow or deep surfaces allowing the naked eye to easily and accurately perceive depth, line and shape. It also minimises the possibility of glare, which is especially helpful when health workers are tasked with intricate surgical procedures that require dexterity and accuracy.

Despite its overall brightness, there are certain areas and cavities that overhead surgical lights can’t illuminate.

In-cavity lights

Medical Lighting

Oftentimes, surgeons need to be able to see inside small cavities. This is where in-cavity surgical lights come in.

Since these lights are going to be close to sensitive tissues, it is important that in-cavity lights do not emit too much heat. Like with all surgical lights, in-cavities must provide a balance between illumination and heat emittance. They must also have sufficient flexibility and be an appropriate size.

Fibre optic cables are perfect for this job as they are able to provide sufficient lighting without giving off too much heat. Additionally, the thin and sturdy cables give in-cavity lights the flexibility that ceiling mounted examination lights cannot deliver. This extra mobility is useful when operating within a narrow and complex cavity.

Due to the small size of fibre optics, in-cavity lights can usually be attached to the surgical tools or attached within the cavity itself. This allows the health workers to be more dexterous when working inside a patient.

According to the IEC, these in-cavity lights must also enable health workers to distinguish true tissue colour within a small cavity. For this to be possible, in-cavity lights must have a colour rendering index (Ra) between 85 and 100.

Surgical headlights or loupes

When it comes to medical lights, it’s not enough to just think about the patients. It is also important to consider how the lighting system affects the health of the medical workers.

When using overhead lighting, dentists and surgeons will often have to adjust their upper bodies to properly see inside a patient. Overtime, the strain that they put on their necks and spinal cords lead to musculoskeletal problems. Because of this, it’s important to have a lighting option that is ergonomically friendly. This is where surgical headlights/loupes can come in handy.

As its name suggests, surgical headlights are attached to a medical worker’s headgear. Because of the proximity to the patient, surgical headlights eliminate any shadows cast by overhead lights. This is particularly important for dentists and surgeons – workers that often need to closely operate on small and complex surgical areas.

The ergonomic design of a surgical loupe is probably it’s most important feature. Since they are attached to the headgear, surgical loupes will provide ample lighting to the dentist’s/surgeon’s field of view regardless of their position.

Other medical lighting features to consider

Other important lighting features include backup possibility and clear user instructions. In case of a blackout, backup possibility ensures that the light will be restored within five seconds with at least 40,000 lux. Within 40 seconds, the light should be back at full brightness. In terms of user instructions, the voltage and power consumption should be written on the lampholder and the lighthead. Instructions for cleaning and decontaminating should also be included.

In addition, there are other features that are not safety concerns but are significant considerations nonetheless. For example, depending on the budget and size of the medical facility, one might have to consider the size of the lights, its maintenance costs and energy efficiency.

As you can see, there are plenty of things to consider when getting medical lights. For the safety of both patients and health workers, it’s important to understand how these different lights work and the different situations that they are designed for. If you have any concerns or problems about medical lighting systems, be sure to contact a surgical lighting specialist for help.

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Manfred Von Hoff

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