Using simulation to document the operating theatre as a social, material and educational space


  • Prof Roger Kneebone

    Imperial College London

Project summary

Major changes are affecting current surgical practice. Internal forces, such as new surgical techniques and changes to the processes of care, and external forces such as reduced working times and fragmented working relationships, are disrupting former patterns. But what happens in the operating theatre is shaped by practices rooted in the early 20th century. The operating theatre is a highly complex environment. Communication between professional tribes is multimodal, depending on subtle non-verbal communication and a shared interaction with materials (human tissue and instruments). Much of this activity is tacit, and written accounts or film cannot do justice to its dynamic, experiential nature. 

This project aims to render such practices visible. I will use physical simulation to ‘recreate’ a typical open operation from 1985 as a dynamic 3-D enaction. The hypothesis is that bringing together surgical team members from the 1980s and using authentic instruments and equipment will prompt and capture recollections of past practices. 

This could offer a valuable addition to methods of historical documentation.