Operational research in the management of the operating theatre: a survey

Health Care Manag Sci. 2011 Mar;14(1):89-114. doi: 10.1007/s10729-010-9143-6. Epub 2010 Nov 20.


Operating theatre represents one of the most critical and expensive hospital resources since a high percentage of the hospital admissions is due to surgical interventions. The main objectives are to guarantee the optimal utilization of medical resources, the delivery of surgery at the right time, the maximisation of profitability (i.e., patient flow) without incurring additional costs or excessive patient waiting time. The operating theatre management is a process very complex: the use of mathematical and simulation models, and quantitative techniques plays, thus a crucial role. The main aim of this paper is to provide a structured literature review on how Operational Research can be applied to the surgical planning and scheduling processes. A particular attention is on the published papers that present the most interesting mathematical (optimization and simulation) models and solution approaches developed to address the problems arising in operating theatres. Directions for future researches are also highlighted.

MeSH terms

  • Appointments and Schedules
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Efficiency, Organizational*
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Operating Rooms / organization & administration*
  • Operations Research*
  • Process Assessment, Health Care