Design considerations for an Operation Theater

An Operating Theater is a facility within a hospital where surgical operations are carried out in an aseptic environment. Being one of the biggest and busiest departments within a hospital, it thus makes it one of the most critical departments as well.

Inside a modern operating room

Critical factors to be considered while designing an OT:

  • Location
    • The best location for the surgical department is one which permits a convenient and uncomplicated flow of patients, staff and clean supplies traffic.
    • The OT should be located that there will be no traffic through it and no interference from the activities of other departments.
    •  Regarding services, ideal adjacencies would be emergency, radiology, clinical laboratories, intensive care units and central sterile and supply department.
  • Design
    • Just as important as the determination of the number and types of operating rooms is the planning of the three basic zones with the OT
    • Three types of activities and circulation take place in these zones and the degree of sterility maintained in each zone is different:
      • Outer zone is the clean area
      • Intermediate zone is the sub-sterile area
      • Outer zone is the administrative area
  • Most Efficient and Cost-Effective OT
    • That doesn’t have a separate anesthetic room
    • That has shared scrub facilities between operating rooms
    • That has a common disposal bay
    • That has central supplies room to service several operating rooms
    • That has a supply distribution system in which case carts are made available to each operating room
    • Where disposal traffic line is segregated from the patient, staff and clean supply traffic line

Design Features for OT

While planning and equipping each operating room, a series of questions need to be answered. They relate to size, usage, lighting, intercommunication and signal systems, electronic equipment and monitoring system, medical gas system and other service lines, fixtures, safety precautions such as grounding for X-Ray, TV camera and against static electricity, storage, supply cabinets, environmental control, etc.

Some of the critical factors that should be considered while designing an Operation Theatre are:

  • Total room size
  • Best placement of lights, cameras, monitors, and the AV equipment
  • Ceiling structures
  • Articulating display arms
  • Equipment booms should be designed to allow for added capabilities in the future

Additional space is required for the infrastructure and electronics to support the components outside the OT.

Hybrid OT

Future of OTs:

Future Operating Theaters will include the latest in operating room design, imaging capability, equipment integration and patient monitoring, including technologies such as:

  • Intelligent lighting system operated through the surgeon’s wand
  • Diagnostic imaging equipment that provides real-time information during surgery
  • Computer-controlled, motorized combination operating room table and ICU bed
  • Robotic cross-cleaning systems with biocidal misting
  • Flat panel monitors outside the surgical zone to check patient vital statistics and diagnostic images


In the current scenario of evidence based medicine, it is imperative to give maximum importance to planning an Operation Theatre. Within the limitations of finance and space, the best results can be obtained by consulting healthcare professionals. Efforts should be made to conform to the standards laid down by local bodies and international agencies, as healthcare facilities in India are now catering to more international patients.