Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Operating Theater

Traditionally, surgical operations (and anatomical dissections) were often performed in amphitheater-shaped rooms where rows of medical students and other interested parties could observe the proceedings. Modern operating rooms, however, do not have seats for observers. I've been in some of the old operating theaters, but have never seen a procedure performed in one.

Yesterday I was invited to watch a Cesarean section that had the potential to be a somewhat complicated case. I've scrubbed into and assisted with a fair number of C-sections, but this one turned out to be a new experience for me. This case took place in a small O.R. When I got there it turned out that plenty of people were already scheduled to be in the room and there was no room for a supernumerary medical student. Instead I was directed to a small door hidden behind the main swinging doors to the surgical area. Slipping inside, I climbed a dark, narrow set of stairs. At the top was a glass-enclosed gallery looking out over the O.R., equipped with a row of chairs. I was alone in there, able to observe the entire procedure from overhead.

I had never watched a surgical case from this perspective. It was very strange, since most of the participants never noticed me up there. Of course, they also don't notice you when you're watching a remote video feed on a monitor in another room, but this was different--the patient, lying on her back before the operation began, was one of the few people in the room to see me behind the window a story above her.

And I got a surprise, myself. As I watched the anesthesia team, the surgical team, and the pediatric team perform their respective roles, I realized that I knew what everyone was doing. Not too long ago this complicated procedure would have been a largely incomprehensible jumble of gowned operatives, beeping equipment, and subtle maneuvers made by sterile-gloved hands. But yesterday not only could I follow along, afterwards I even discussed the surgeon's technique with one of the other physicians. Maybe I am learning something in medical school, after all.



At August 9, 2007 at 8:29 PM , Blogger kirelimel said...

so, did you get the extra large popcorn and did you get butter on it?

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