Should you perform an operation when the electricity to the theatres has failed and you are running on generator power?

The Surgeon’s dilemma – should they operate on generator power? Aurora Surgeon Adrian Richards shares his thoughts…

This scenario happened to me today. I was halfway through my morning operating session having completed two breast enlargements when the electricity to the hospital and the local region failed at 10:30am.

My next case was a tummy tuck and the dilemma was should I start the surgery running on back-up means-generated power.

All hospitals in the United Kingdom have very effective means of power which will last for at least 24 hours. However, it is generally considered bad practice to start an operation when the theatres are run by means power alone because in the unlikely event that the generator fails there will be no power to the operating theatres. This would have implications for the lighting, anaesthetic machines and any instruments such as diothermy which require electricity to work.

In my surgical career within the last 25 years I’ve only known of a failure of electricity to the operating theatres on two occasions and the second time was today.

Although it’s extremely unlikely that the generator would fail I felt it was a risk that was not sensible to take. I therefore postponed the tummy tuck operation I was due to perform and have rescheduled it.

On reflection I think this was the right decision to make, although it was understandably very inconvenient for the patient as she had to reschedule her recovery arrangements. The lesson to learn is that safety is of paramount importance in all plastic surgical procedures and if any surgeon has any doubts as to whether the operation is safe I would urge them not to proceed.

Categories:  Body