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Simulated Operating Theatre

The first project we undertook for Imperial College school of medicine was to create a low-cost, portable operating theatre. The intention was to make high fidelity simulation more widely available in medical education so that trainee surgeons and nurses had an safe arena in which to practice high-pressure scenarios.


The resulting design included an inflatable backdrop that severs as a portable, and almost indestructible stage within which simulations could occur. We found that in order to make the simulation portable, you needed to block our whatever environment you set up in to maintain the illusion of reality. That the inflatable itself is not terribly realistic did not matter as it quickly became a neutral background. Having a boundary also gave participants a clear line between ‘on-stage’ when they must be in character and participate fully in the simulated scenario, and ‘off-stage’ where they can prepare, observe, and comment.

An iconic and immediately recognisable part of any operating theatre is the lamp, but these are usually ceiling mounted, heavy and expensive. We created a lightweight, compact LED lamp, that instantly provides the environment with the feeling of being an operating theatre. We also embedded in the handle of the lamp a video camera that allows the real time close-up observation of the surgical procedure, and recording for feedback and assessment purposes.

As well as providing a training environment for clinical teams, the simulated operating theatre is also widely used in public engagement events. As designers we regularly participate with the medical teams to take the operating theatre to festivals for children and adults, medical professionals and general public alike. Opening up the world of surgery to the public is valuable for inspiring and educating the public, but also for showing the medical world how the public views their work. The public engagement work built on the success of the simulated operating theatre has lead to research grants and public engagement grants from the Wellcome Trust amongst others, in which Studiohead has been co-applicants.

In the video below the simulated operating theatre is being used at the Big Bang Science Fair 2013 in ExCeL, London to educate children about what happens in a head trauma scenario.

The original Simulated Operating Theatre is now being brought to market through an Imperial Innovations spin-off company, Convincis Ltd. We continue to design and supply components of the operating theatre to Convincis as the company gets going.