The University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore opened the nation's most technologically advanced surgical facility on June 16, 2003. The facility, located in the Medical Center's new 380,000-square-foot Weinberg Building, houses 19 operating rooms for adult and pediatric patients, two minor procedure rooms, a 28-bed Post Anesthesia Care Unit and a beautifully furnished Same Day Surgery Center for optimal patient comfort. The new facility will also have a new Surgical Prep Center for pre-operative assessments, with a separate pediatric prep area exclusively for children.
The surgical facility, which is being called the "OR of the Future," occupies 52,000 square feet and will combine the most advanced video and other communications equipment with information technology in order to enhance patient safety and operational efficiency. More than 15,800 surgeries are performed at the Medical Center each year.
These operating rooms are 30 percent larger and bring together the latest innovations in design and technology to benefit today's surgical patients.
All of the new operating rooms have advanced built-in imaging systems with mobile monitors to assist surgeons in performing a variety of minimally invasive procedures. Other monitors give the surgical team immediate access to vital patient information, such as lab results and CT scans.
Wide-view cameras beam images from all 19 operating rooms to video monitors located in a secure control room. From there, operating room coordinators are able to keep the OR activities running more efficiently, such as preparing the room for the next patient. And they can immediately dispatch extra help or equipment if needed. The video linkages also include other units within the surgical facilities, such as the Post Anesthesia Care Unit and the Minor Surgery Suite.
Four of the rooms have sophisticated telemedicine capability with live, two-way audio and video feeds that show the entire room as well as views inside of tiny scopes inserted within the patient. These telemedicine connections enable the surgical team to train other doctors as cases are underway, whether they are down the hall, across the country or around the world. Two of these rooms have equipment that is voice-activated, allowing the surgeon to adjust the lights, bed, monitors and camera views using a voice recognition system customized for each surgeon.
The design of the new OR facility was carefully planned to enhance patient safety and reduce the chance of infection. There is a new, state-of-the-art sterile processing department. All sterilized instruments enter the operating rooms from one hallway and exit by a different route after they are used. A sterile storage corridor lining the back of the operating rooms protects those supplies, yet affords the surgical teams easy access to what they need.
In order to reduce the risk of patient exposure to airborne impurities, a special air handling system has been installed in each room that filters out microscopic impurities. The purified air comes into each operating room from the center of the ceiling, directly above the patient. Then, the air is drawn out through vents near the floor, on the perimeter of each room.
One of the operating rooms is outfitted with galvanized steel and copper walls to house an MRI scanner, which is not normally found in an OR. The scanner enables surgeons to have real-time images to guide them in very delicate surgical procedures, such as removing a brain tumor. Surgeons are able to use the MRI within the operating room to assess their progress--without closing up the patient and determining later that a second surgery is needed.
More innovations are planned. In partnership with the Department of Defense, we hope to test a robotic system to sterilize and check instruments and help manage inventory.
Plans also are being developed to install a new information system that works like an "easy pass" on toll roads. Using a transponder attached to each patient's stretcher, it would signal the location of each patient and send all relevant medical information about that person to a computer within the operating room. These types of innovations may lead to even greater progress in caring for patients more safely and efficiently.