Have you ever noticed how all the operating rooms portrayed on TV have so much blue? Have you ever wondered why? The same color scheme can be found on scrubs, scrub caps, and gowns used by operating room staff and physicians. While it may just be a coincidence, the blue and green color palates actually have a purpose.
Prior to the 1920s most physicians and staff wore minimal personal protective equipment (PPE), because there was little to no knowledge of how infections are spread. Then in 1918, when there was a devastating influenza outbreak, an antiseptic theory was created which led to the usage of additional PPE. When gowns, masks, scrub caps, and gloves became a part of standard medical practice they chose white because white can be associated with cleanliness. Medical professionals perceived no issues with the color chosen for the apparel. Although issues arose for many physicians during different procedures.
As doctors began operating with their white scrubs they started to experience moments of blindness. The white coloring is too bright when their eyes shift from the dark colors seen while operating on their patients. Doctors began to get headaches while operating which could have led to several complications. Eventually, one doctor chose to switch to green scrubs because he thought it would be easier on his eyes when he switched his glance. Once other doctors from around the world heard word of the success with switching colors, nearly everyone was switching to blue or green scrubs globally.
Quickly after the shift from white to green and blue health care workers began to see other benefits. The cleaning staff has an easier time cleaning blood stains out of the cool colors compared to the very bright white. Which lead to less scrubs to be thrown away due to unremovable discolorations. The main cause of the moment of blindness and headaches came from when surgeons stare at the red blood too long, when they switch the viewing a white lab coat a green figure or blob-like shape may appear on the white surface and remain in view for a few minutes. This made the surgeon's vision compromised for several moments at a time. With a compromised view it is difficult for surgeons to perform their best and avoid all complications. Making the switch to green instead of white prevents the blotches from forming and remaining in vision.
So while we know why white doesn’t work, why does green work? Green and blue work the best because they are the opposite of red on the color wheel. Green is the absolute best because it is directly opposite of red on the spectrum. Since they are opposites they allow for the best relief on the eyes. Surgeries can last for many, many hours and as the surgeons continue to stare into the reds and pink within the body their brains can become desensitized to the red colors and their vision can begin to blur. When the eyes switch to a different color, especially one on the opposite end of the spectrum, the eyes can readjust and see more details within the reds and pinks.