An elective surgical trivia quiz

March 5, 2018
Sarah Mouton Dowdy
Sarah Mouton Dowdy

Sarah Mouton Dowdy, a former associate content specialist for, is a freelance writer and editor in Kansas City, Missouri.

Hey, veterinary professional: If you have a few free minutes, this quiz is minimally time-invasive, and the prognosis for learning something interesting is excellent.

Why are surgical drapes green? When did music enter the operating room? These are just a couple of the questions this surgical quiz will cover, thanks to the help of Jennifer Wardlaw, DVM, MS, DACVS-SA, a concierge surgeon at Gateway Veterinary Surgery in St. Louis, Missouri. 

Regardless of your role in the practice, you're invited to scrub in and test your knowledge ...

Find out why white was scrubbed on the next page ...



Answer: If the thought of stark white fabric under the bright lights in the operating room makes you squint, you're on the right track. Pale greens and blues were thought to reduce surgeons' eyestrain (and the fact that stains were less noticeable was an added bonus).

The color of surgical drapes made the same switch: Because green and blue are opposite red on the color wheel, it's thought that the blue and green drapes make looking at a patient's insides a little easier on the eyes.

Now, of course, there's a vast array of colors and designs to choose from when it comes to scrubs. Nurses and assistants tend to have darker scrubs, as they often have the messiest jobs, says Dr. Wardlaw. (Navy is her color of choice.) Scrubs are designed to be cheap, easy to clean and resistant to lint (though Dr. Wardlaw laments that veterinary professionals are still waiting for a dog-and-cat-hair-proof scrub option).

Have a percentage in mind? See if there are any holes in your thinking ...



Answer: After two hours of surgery, 35 percent of surgical gloves have punctures (and only 20 percent of surgeons are aware of these holes).1 

This is why we wash our hands before and after putting on gloves and why surgeons involved in longer surgeries or ones with orthopedic implants wear double gloves, thicker orthopedic gloves or (in human medicine) inner “indicator” gloves in a color that shows through when the outer gloves develop a hole, says Dr. Wardlaw.  

This one might require some higher thinking ...



Answer: According to a report from the British Medical Journal,2 we can trace the playing of music during surgery back to ancient times, as the Greek god Apollo was considered the father of both healing and music. Music is played during roughly 62 to 72 percent of surgical procedures, and 80 percent of surgical team members say music improves communication and efficiency while reducing anxiety. 3

Dr. Wardlaw agrees. “I love playing music. It calms everyone down and makes us more efficient by getting everyone talking,” she says.

Though she tends to let her anesthesiologist pick the tunes, Dr. Wardlaw's preferences span from Jack Johnson to '80s dance party music-it just depends on the procedure.

Catgut your tongue on this one?



Answer: Sutures made from plants, hair, animal tendons and wool threads have been found in the remains of mummies from around 3,000 BCE.4 Dated at 1600 BCE, the Edwin Smith Papyrus (named for the chap who found it) is the oldest surgical text ever discovered and describes 48 medical procedures in detail-many of which involve sutures.4 Egyptian embalmers often used sutures to close up corpses after organ removal.4

Though most contemporary sutures are synthetic, catgut and silk are two biologic sutures that are still in use, says Dr. Wardlaw.

Find the clean-cut answer on the next page ...



Answer: Before the mid-1800s, half of limb amputation patients died of sepsis.5 English surgeon Joseph Lister hypothesized that microscopic organisms caused tissue death and started treating surgical wounds with carbolic acid to prevent this decay and its resulting infections. As a result, the mortality rate following amputation fell drastically, “catalyzing the adoption of modern antiseptic techniques, including instrument sterilization, the use of surgical scrub and rubber gloves, and sterile patient preparation.”5

We recommend going to the next page to find the answer ...



Answer: For optimum safety and comfort, AIA recommends a temperature range of 68-73 F (20-23 C) and a humidity range of 30-60 percent.6

“I love for the operating room to be 68 F with 40 percent humidity, but I always have at least one patient warming device to avoid pupcicles,” Dr. Wardlaw says. 

Has this whetted your appetite for more clinical quizzes? If so, we're happy to reward your good taste. Visit to put your knowledge to the test.



Gonçalves Kde J, Graziano KU, Kawagoe JY. A systematic review of surgical hand antisepsis utilizing an alcohol preparation compared to traditional products. Rev Esc Enferm USP 2012;46(6):1484-1493.  

Bosanquet DC, Glasbey JCD, Chavez R. Making music in the operating theatre. BMJ 2014;349:g7436.

Ullmann Y, Fodor L, Schwarzberg I, et al. The sounds of music in the operating room. Injury 2008;39(5):592-597

Muffly TM, Tizzano AP, Walters MD. The history and evolution of sutures in pelvic surgery. J R Soc Med 2011;104(3):107-112.

Hemani ML, Lepor H. Skin Preparation for the Prevention of Surgical Site Infection: Which Agent Is Best? Rev Urol 2009;11(4):190-195.

Blanchard J. Humidity, temperature, and air exchanges in the OR. AORN Journal 2009;89(6):1129–1131.