From the operating room of the present to the operating room of the future. Human-factors lessons learned from the minimally invasive surgery revolution

Semin Laparosc Surg. 2003 Sep;10(3):127-39. doi: 10.1177/107155170301000306.


The minimally invasive surgical revolution has changed the way surgery is practiced. It has also helped surgical innovators to break the tethers that anchored the practice of surgery in an early 20th century operating room environment. To some in surgery, the Operating Room of the Future will be seen as a revolution but to others, an inevitable evolution of the changes ushered in by the adoption of minimally invasive surgery. Although minimally invasive surgery has conferred considerable advantages on the patient, it has imposed significant difficulties on the surgeon, which in turn, have impacted outcomes. These difficulties were primarily human factor in nature and were poorly understood by critical groups such as device manufacturers, surgeons, and surgery educators and trainers. This article details what these human factors were, how they related to the practice of minimally invasive surgery, and how they will impact on the practice of surgery in the Operating Room of the Future. Much of the technology for the Operating Room of the Future currently exists (eg, surgical robotics, virtual reality, and telemedicine). However, for it to function optimally it must be integrated in a fashion that takes on board the human factor strengths and limitations of the surgeon. These advanced technologies should then be harnessed to optimize surgical practice. In some cases, this will involve rethinking existing technologies (ie, three-dimensional camera systems), applying technologies that currently exist in a manner that is more systematic and better managed (ie, surgical robots and virtual reality), and a reconsideration of who should be applying these technologies for the practice of surgery in the 21st century. In all cases, there will be education and training implications for the practitioner. Lastly, there must be unequivocal demonstration that these changes bring about positive benefits for patients in terms of better outcomes and for surgeons in terms of ability and ease of doing their job. After the experiences of the last decade with minimally invasive surgery, the Operating Room of the Future should be seen as a well-grounded evolution, not a revolution.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Human Characteristics*
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Minimally Invasive Surgical Procedures / trends*
  • Operating Rooms / trends*