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Building a better operating room

Toronto, October 2, 2013

By Patricia Favre

A mock-up of a future operating room in St. Michael’s 3.0.
A mock-up of a future operating room in St. Michael’s 3.0. (Photo by Yuri Markarov, Medical Media Centre)

The five new hybrid operating rooms for the new patient care tower are being designed to meet the technology needs of the future.

“Our current operating rooms are relatively old,” said Surgeon-in-Chief Dr. Ori Rotstein.

“They were built in an era where the technology used was much less critical to the function of an operation. Now we don’t have the physical space to house some of those new technologies.”

The hospital’s current operating rooms are approximately 350-400 sq. ft. St. Michael’s has had to make significant adjustments to embrace new approaches like hybrid ORs, which integrate operating rooms and imaging equipment such as MRIs into one space.

“Having a CT or MRI in the same room gives us the ability to see in real time the results of interventions,” said Dr. Rotstein. “We’ll also see more robotic and wireless technology.”

Part of the challenge is that no one is exactly sure what the requirements will be in five years.

“The operating room of the future will no longer be just about surgery – it will integrate disciplines such as medical imaging to give more comprehensive, safe treatment for patients,” said Dr. Rotstein. “An operating room in St. Michael’s 3.0 will be much larger, have the capability to house advanced imaging technology, and integrate new technologies.”

Dr. Rotstein said they’re working with a wide range of medical professionals to learn how imaging will advance.

“But the reality is we don’t know,” he said. “So we’re taking steps like designing the new ORs to be lead-lined and magnetic-shielded, to give us more options and flexibility down the road.”

The new operating rooms will be approximately 600-750 sq. ft., and include features such as breakout panels in walls. This will mean the hospital can avoid repeating recent experiences of knocking down walls to move in large pieces of new equipment.

Once the five new hybrid ORs are built, the hospital will maintain its current number of operating rooms by closing older ones.

By planning for the operating rooms of the future, St. Michael’s 3.0 will ultimately improve health care outcomes.

“If a neurosurgeon, for example, can see exactly what areas they’re cutting during brain surgery, that means more safety for the patient,” said Dr. Rotstein.

About St. Michael’s Hospital

St Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.