VIEW-2735 | Operating room, Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal, QC, about 1894

Operating room, Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal, QC, about 1894
Wm. Notman & Son
About 1894, 19th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
20 x 25 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Architecture (8646) , medical (125) , Photograph (77678)
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Keys to History

New advances in surgery demanded substantial changes to operating rooms. The advent of chloroform and ether anaesthesia, improvements to surgical instruments and the introduction of basic disinfection measures made it possible to perform longer, more risky operations. This was called major surgery, as opposed to minor procedures requiring only rudimentary installations.

Before long, semi-circular operating rooms with large windows became the norm, providing better light for the surgeon's task. Patients were placed on an adjustable table at the centre, and students observed the operations from a half-circle of tiered seats. These installations were known as surgery rooms, and only non-paying patients were operated on there.

Unfortunately, the operating rooms in some hospitals were located near the autopsy room, which greatly increased the risk of infection. Students and doctors sometimes went from one room to the other without disinfecting their hands.

  • What

    The surgery room at the Royal Victoria Hospital was well equipped to make the transition to modern surgical practice. It was a far cry from today's operating rooms, but the adjustable operating table was already a sign of things to come.

  • Where

    At the Royal Victoria, as in all large Canadian hospitals, the operating room was semi-circular and had many windows. The stone floor facilitated cleaning.

  • When

    Surgery was performed from dawn to dusk. But surgeons were known to cancel their procedures in favour of a day off in the country.

  • Who

    The Royal Victoria Hospital surgery room could seat quite a crowd. Most were medical students, but nursing students and distinguished guests occasionally attended at well.