Why do surgeons wear green and blue gowns in the operating room?

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For more than a hundred years, surgeons have worn green and blue coats during an operation. But why this choice of color?

Why do surgeons wear green or blue?

On December 17, 2020, a question was asked on the platform Quora : “Why are blue or green fabrics used in operating theaters?” A certain Jérôme Alain provided an answer to this question. He presents himself as artistic director and graphic designer since 2001. According to him, the outfits that surgeons used in operating theaters until 1914 were white. Let us remember in passing that this color represents cleanliness or even purity. However, the color white has a significant drawback. Indeed, it contains all the colors of the rainbow.

You should know that our brain interprets colors in relation to each other. When exposed to one color, it will become more receptive to a second color complementary to the first in the color wheel (see below). Thus, green and blue face red in the wheel and are therefore complementary. For medical staff, green and blue coats can therefore be focus attention for a long time on the red of human tissue and increase the chances of a successful operation. How is it possible ?

Credit: Nopira / Wikipedia

A rather annoying ghost image

At the sight of the color white, the color perceiving cones in the human eye are constantly solicited. However, in the case of a long exposure to a stimulus “red spot on white background”, the eye begins to create hallucinations. Let us take a surgeon looking too long at a set of red colors with the presence of white in the background. Looking elsewhere, on a white space without red spot, he will see a ghost image for a few seconds. This image will be a complementary shade to red on the white surface and this can be quite annoying during an operation surgical.

A little experience to do at home allows to better represent the thing. It suffices to fix intensely for several minutes an image dominated by the color red. Then, suddenly look away to a white surface. There is thus a good chance of observing for a few moments a ghost image corresponding to the first surface tinted with red.

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