Noise pollution in the operating theatre

Lancet. 1990 Apr 14;335(8694):891-4. doi: 10.1016/0140-6736(90)90486-o.


Sound levels during a typical major operation were measured to identify the main sources of noise in the operating theatre. Although overall sound levels were within the recommended levels for a satisfactory working environment, loud intermittent noises of up to 108 dB were emitted from sources such as suckers, "intercoms", and alarms on anaesthetic monitoring devices. The noisiest time was usually during the preparation period of the operation; during surgery, noise levels were much higher than levels of normal speech between staff. Preferred speech interference levels were often exceeded which made communication difficult and sometimes impossible. Communication and concentration were also disrupted by unnecessary background conversation.

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesiology / instrumentation
  • Attention / physiology
  • Communication*
  • Ear Protective Devices
  • Fourier Analysis
  • Humans
  • Music
  • Noise / adverse effects*
  • Noise, Occupational / adverse effects*
  • Noise, Occupational / prevention & control
  • Operating Rooms*
  • Reflex, Startle / physiology
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control
  • Surgical Equipment
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Videotape Recording