Andrew Steinkeler, MD, DMD, has a constant companion for every surgical procedure: a battery-powered headlight given to him as a gift during his residency. "I never leave the house without it," says Dr. Steinkeler, a surgeon with Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Centers in Warminster, Pa. "I use mine for every procedure and I will for the rest of my career. I love this light. It's a game-changer."
He's not alone among surgeons who heap glowing praise upon their surgical headlights. For surgeons in certain specialties ENT, hand, oral and maxillofacial, and plastic surgery, to name a select few a headlight is nearly as indispensable as a scalpel. And, given all the innovations of the past few years, they're likely to become even more essential.
Whether you're a first-time buyer or a veteran looking for an upgrade to replace "old faithful," you'll be amazed by the options and value-added features to help you gain the best possible view of the surgical field. Here's what to look for as you begin your search.
1. Light quality and intensity. The bulb option you choose halogen, light-emitting diode (LED), metal halide, xenon will likely be determined by the kind of surgery you do. Surgeons who do mostly "surface work" will be fine with a lower light output a lower lux, as it's called while general and spine surgeons will require a stronger, tighter beam with more focused illumination.
LEDs are today's "hottest" headlight technology, says Brian McLaughlin, MS, MBA, CCE, clinical engineering manager for perioperative services at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Mass. As a clinical engineer, Mr. McLaughlin appreciates the cost and maintenance advantages that LEDs offer.
"The light is steady, and the degradation curve is more or less flat until the lamp fails," he says. "Some surgeons may prefer the high-intensity xenon lights versus LEDs, but in general you're seeing a move toward LEDs. The old-style lamps burn out much more frequently, and the intensity declines over time."