Why Do Anesthesiologists Really Put Up That Drape in the OR?


Life is full of great mysteries: Why did the dinosaurs become extinct? Why is Donald Trump running for president? Is normal saline normal?  But here’s the greatest mystery of all: Why do anesthesiologists really put up that drape in the OR?  It’s a question that has haunted healthcare providers since drapes were invented by Sir William Drapes in 1746.  Let’s take a look at some of GomerBlog’s most compelling theories.

or-drapesAnesthesiologists hate pants.

It’s a lot of responsibility taking care of an airway, let alone administering local or general anesthesia and monitoring all of a patient’s vital signs during the duration of surgery.  It’s a lot of heat and pressure, so what better way to cool down than to not wear any pants?

Anesthesiologists are a shy and humble lot; wouldn’t you be embarrassed if fellow health care practitioners saw you performing your job in a thong?  Of course you would!  Just think of the drapes as the entry to a dressing room, except that it takes one to twelve hours to change outfits.  Doesn’t that cool artificial breeze feel good against those naked legs and feet?

They are preparing for the World Sudoku Championships.

Anesthesiologists will tell you the most interesting stuff happens during takeoffs and landings; the middle part is utterly boring.  Not many realize modern Sudoku was created with bored anesthesiologists in mind.  Sudoku and anesthesiology are so intertwined that nearly three quarters of board certification is dedicated to solving those addictive 9-by-9 grids.  Unlike other fields of medicine, seniority is not defined by age or years in practice: it is by highest finish at a World Sudoku Championship, which will take place this year in Sofia, Bulgaria.  Good luck!

To sneak out, perhaps to grab a bite, get car washed, or grab friend at airport.

Let’s face it: some of these surgeries are long.  Like long long.  Fact: the higher the top level of the drape, the higher the likelihood an anesthesiologist will make a break for it.  To do what?  Most likely to grab something to eat, though some may go to the airport to pick up a friend or go home to finish laundry and even iron a bit.  It depends on the surgery.  Surgeons, pay attention!  If you can see an anesthesiologist’s head and torso, you can feel good that he or she will be in it for the long haul.  If you can’t see anything at all, be warned: peace out, anesthesiology is already gone!

Anesthesiologists faint, vomit at the sight of blood.

Who would’ve thought they have such weak stomachs when it comes to seeing blood?  Before drapes, anesthesiologists could actually see that surgery meant cutting part of the human body open to fix it and this was not pleasing to them.  It made them queasy and most would vomit.  But without that protective drape to deflect the vomit, lots of it ended up inside innocent body cavities, which was bad for patient care.  Drapes are the anesthesiologist’s blinders.  They’re also effective at keeping anesthesiology vomit away from the sterile field.

To keep surgeons at bay, who can wander sometimes.

Anesthesiologists say drapes are needed to define an OR’s boundaries.  Without them, anesthesiologists believe surgeons will naturally wander towards the head of the bed and start mucking around with the endotracheal tube, anesthetic machine, or, worse, their Sudoku puzzles.  That was why the Treaty of Drapes was signed on April 14, 1982, which defined the drape as a “neutral zone dividing the territories of surgery and anesthesiology,” thus bringing a much-needed truce to decades of ugly hostilities between the two sides.

There is no role, there is merely a drape surplus.

Hospital administration has no concept of what resources in a hospital are truly needed, which explains why hospitals lack good nurses, physicians, and other providers while the supply room has 4 million metric tons of unused drapes.  “There’s a sh*t ton of drapes back there,” said an anonymous and pantless anesthesiologist.  “We figured we might as well use them.  In fact, next case, we’re thinking about building some epic drape forts, you in?”