Operating Room Humidity Requirements

Written by margi desmond
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Operating Room Humidity Requirements
High relative humidity causes medical personnel to perspire. (surgical team during operation: working on open wo image by alma_sacra from Fotolia.com)

Operating rooms are required to deploy desiccant dehumidification units in an effort to regulate relative humidity. Low humidity can cause electrostatic charges and patient hypothermia. High humidity causes increased growth of bacteria and fungus as well as uncomfortable conditions for the operating room staff. Keeping the relative humidity at 50 per cent eliminates unfavourable conditions in the surgical suite.

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Electrostatic Charges

Low levels of relative humidity cause an increase in electrostatic charges. These charges are electric currents between two objects and may cause damage to electrical equipment. In the presence of oxygen gas, a spark can cause a fire or explosion. Operating rooms must be kept at a relative humidity of 50 per cent to eliminate these risks.

Patient Hypothermia

Patients are susceptible to hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature, during lengthy surgical procedures where humidity is lower than 35 per cent. Relative humidity set at 50 per cent reduces the chance of both hypothermia and the drying of mucous membranes.

Airborne Bacteria and Fungus

A relative humidity of 50 per cent controls the growth of airborne bacteria, thus minimising infections in operating room procedures. In addition, the dry air from desiccant systems eliminates mould and mildew growing in air ducts and filters.

Comfort

Heat from lights and equipment, multilayered gowning and lengthy surgical procedures cause surgeons and operating personnel to perspire. Desiccant dehumidification units that keep relative humidity at 50 per cent ensure comfort and reduce the incidence of stress-induced errors.

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