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29. March 2017

How can we reduce the risk of operating room infections?

There is a growing awareness of the prevalence and dangers of hospital-acquired infections. In one year in the United States such infections have been estimated to affect 1.7 million patients and cause 99,000 deaths.

“The operating theatre should be the cleanest room in the whole building,” says Jyrki Nieminen, Director of R&D at Merivaara. “You should come out healthier than when you went in.”

Infection risks can be reduced through a variety of measures, such as hand hygiene and wearing the proper gloves, masks and clothing. Yet these are only a small part of the solution.

Airborne particles a risk

“Hospital staff are extremely well-trained to handle sterile equipment,” Nieminen continues. “But what is less considered is the source of airborne microbes which might be the cause of surgery infections. This situation is more complex, and, in my opinion, less under control.”

An operating theatre’s climate control system maintains a constant overpressure, making sure particles are not sucked into the room. However, this system fails if a door is opened. For this reason Merivaara developed wall displays for their OpenOR™, integrated operating room management system. These can warn outside staff members of a critical patient and the need to maintain sterile conditions.

“The biggest source of airborne microbes is the staff,” says Nieminen. “The ventilation system is designed to work according to how many staff members are in the room. If the system is programmed for four people and two more enter it will not work effectively. We are working on an automated solution for this.”

Lights and air flow

Yet there can still be dangers inside a properly closed and ventilated operating theatre. Standard operating room lights create turbulence intensity, pulling particulates right where they shouldn’t be: the surgery area.

“Think of how the back of a large truck is always dirty,” Nieminen explains. “The air flow creates a low pressure area, pulling in dirt. Now consider the back of a sleek sports car. It is less dirty because it is kept clear by the airflow. The same basic idea is behind our Q-Flow™ surgical light. There is a lower risk of particles coming up and entering the surgical area.”

Merivaara designed the Q-Flow™ precisely to reduce turbulence intensity. It is shaped almost like a doughnut, with open space between rings of lights. There is even more to the Q-Flow™ than improving air flow in an OR. It has been designed with a minimalistic philosophy, avoiding unnecessary pieces which could collect particles. Even the controls were designed to be easily used by the surgeon alone, so a nurse doesn’t have to come over and adjust the light.

Both the Q-Flow™ and OpenOR™ are part of the Merivaara Fluent concept, which enhances the usability of operating rooms. When the surgical staff have the right equipment they can focus on their jobs and there is less risk of infections.

“If you are interested in learning more about how Merivaara’s products and solutions can help reduce the infection risks in your operating theatres, please give us a call,” concludes Nieminen.


  • Jyrki Nieminen, Research & Development
  • Mobile +358 40 849 9755


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