Effects of a hot ambient operating theatre on manual dexterity, psychological and physiological parameters in staff during a simulated burn surgery

Zehra Palejwala, Karen Wallman, MK Ward, Cheryl Yam, Tessa Maroni, Sharon Parker, Fiona Wood

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Objectives. Hot environmental conditions can result in a high core-temperature and dehydration which can impair physical and cognitive performance. This study aimed to assess the effects of a hot operating theatre on various performance, physiological and psychological parameters in staff during a simulated burn surgery. Methods. Due to varying activity levels, surgery staff were allocated to either an Active (n = 9) or Less-Active (n = 8) subgroup, with both subgroups performing two simulated burn surgery trials (CONTROL: ambient conditions; 23±0.2˚C, 35.8±1.2% RH and HOT: 34±0˚C, 28.3±1.9%RH; 150 min duration for each trial), using a crossover design with four weeks between trials. Manual dexterity, core-temperature, heart-rate, sweat-loss, thermal sensation and alertness were assessed at various time points during surgery. Results. Pre-trials, 13/17 participants were mildly-significantly dehydrated (HOT) while 12/17 participants were mildly-significantly dehydrated (CONTROL). There were no significant differences in manual dexterity scores between trials, however there was a tendency for scores to be lower/impaired during HOT (both subgroups) compared to CONTROL, at various time-points (Cohen’s d = -0.74 to -0.50). Furthermore, alertness scores tended to be higher/better in HOT (Active subgroup only) for most time-points (p = 0.06) compared to CONTROL, while core-temperature and heart-rate were higher in HOT either overall (Active;p<0.05) or at numerous time points (Less-Active; p<0.05). Finally, sweat-loss and thermal sensation were greater/higher in HOT for both subgroups (p<0.05). Conclusions. A hot operating theatre resulted in significantly higher core-temperature, heart-rate, thermal sensation and sweat-loss in staff. There was also a tendency for slight impairment in manual dexterity, while alertness improved. A longer, real-life surgery is likely to further increase physiological variables assessed here and in turn affect optimal performance/outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0222923
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalPLoS One
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019


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