Design of Hospital Operating Room Ventilation using Computational Fluid Dynamics

University dissertation from Stockhomlm : KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Abstract: The history of surgery is nearly as old as the human race. Control of wound infection has always been an essential part of any surgical procedure, and is still an important challenge in hospital operating rooms today. For patients undergoing surgery there is always a risk that they will develop some kind of postoperative complication.It is widely accepted that airborne bacteria reaching a surgical site are mainly staphylococci released from the skin flora of the surgical staff in the operating room and that even a small fraction of those particles can initiate a severe infection at the surgical site.  Wound infections not only impose a tremendous burden on healthcare resources but also pose a major threat to the patient. Hospital-acquired infection ranks amongst the leading causes of death within the surgical patient population. A broad knowledge and understanding of sources and transport mechanisms of infectious particles may provide valuable possibilities to control and minimize postoperative infections.This thesis contributes to finding solutions, through analysis of such mechanisms for a range of ventilation designs together with investigation of other factors that can influence spread of infection in hospitals, particularly in operating rooms.The aim of this work is to apply the techniques of computational fluid dynamics in order to provide better understanding of air distribution strategies that may contribute to infection control in operating room and ward environments of hospitals, so that levels of bacteria-carrying particles in the air can be reduced while thermal comfort and air quality are improved. A range of airflow ventilation principles including fully mixed, laminar and hybrid strategies were studied. Airflow, particle and tracer gas simulations were performed to examine contaminant removal and air change effectiveness. A number of further influential parameters on the performance of airflow ventilation systems in operating rooms were examined and relevant measures for improvement were identified.It was found that airflow patterns within operating room environments ranged from laminar to transitional to turbulent flows. Regardless of ventilation system used, a combination of all airflow regimes under transient conditions could exist within the operating room area. This showed that applying a general model to map airflow field and contaminant distribution may result in substantial error and should be avoided.It was also shown that the amount of bacteria generated in an operating room could be minimized by reducing the number of personnel present. Infection-prone surgeries should be performed with as few personnel as possible. The initial source strength (amount of colony forming units that a person emits per unit time) of staff members can also be substantially reduced, by using clothing systems with high protective capacity.Results indicated that horizontal laminar airflow could be a good alternative to the frequently used vertical system. The horizontal airflow system is less sensitive to thermal plumes, easy to install and maintain, relatively cost-efficient and does not require modification of existing lighting systems. Above all, horizontal laminar airflow ventilation does not hinder surgeons who need to bend over the surgical site to get a good view of the operative field.The addition of a mobile ultra-clean exponential laminar airflow screen was also investigated as a complement to the main ventilation system in the operating room. It was concluded that this system could reduce the count of airborne particles carrying microorganisms if proper work practices were maintained by the surgical staff.A close collaboration and mutual understanding between ventilation experts and surgical staff would be a key factor in reducing infection rates. In addition, effective and frequent evaluation of bacteria levels for both new and existing ventilation systems would also be important.