Surgeons' perspectives on operating room waste: Multicenter survey

Surgery. 2022 May;171(5):1142-1147. doi: 10.1016/j.surg.2021.12.032. Epub 2022 Jan 31.


Background: Waste is endemic in the U.S. health care system. Operating rooms are a source of significant solid waste. Surgeons are integral to many decisions in the operating room.

Method: Online survey of surgeons at 2 major academic centers in the United States assessing perspectives on intraoperative waste and willingness to work to actively reduce intraoperative waste.

Results: We received responses from 219 surgeons: 90% agreed or strongly agreed that waste of sterile surgical items is an issue, and 95% agreed or strongly agreed to a willingness to change the operating room workflow to reduce waste. Surgeons estimated 26% of single-use, sterile supplies opened for surgery were unused at the end of the case. The barriers to waste reduction cited most frequently were: (1) lack of awareness of waste, (2) lack of concern for waste, and (3) lack of time to address the waste.

Conclusion: Surgeons understand there is significant waste in the operating room and are willing to change their workflow to reduce waste. Changes in operating room practices that reduce waste will be beneficial to health systems' finances and their efforts to improve population health through a reduction in consumption and pollution. Efforts should be directed toward reducing operating room waste with an initial focus on the elimination of unnecessary waste of sterile surgical supplies. Further work is needed to determine the precise sources of perioperative waste and what initiatives can be implemented to reduce this burden while maintaining high-value patient care.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Operating Rooms*
  • Surgeons*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Workflow