Exam Light

Everything There Is to Know About Medical Exam light

Medical Exam lights are majorly used in all areas of clinical settings to secure a clear visual perception of the area of the body examined. An exam light highlights and illuminates the area for the best resolution to help with diagnosis and intervention.

Every operatory room needs unique customization for these elements to create the practitioner's optimal visibility in the operation setting. Exam light minimizes errors and prevents eye problems related to inadequate or inconvenient lighting.

Exam lighting is critically needed anywhere from emergency rooms, dental operatory rooms, labor and delivery, surgery operation room, and any medical setting that rely on the visualization tools. Poor lighting and over-lighting may negatively affect the quality of performance in the operation site, increasing the overall time required for the procedure, and the probability of errors occurring during the procedures. 

History of exam lights

Before the age of electricity, surgical operations were done in daylight, depending entirely on the sun's illumination. Later in the 1900s, lighting bulbs became available to be used in the clinical setting. Halogen bulbs became available in the 1690s. By the year 1990, electric light systems entered the medical field for the first time, and ever since, it has been developing continuously to provide the need for clinical practice. 

Recently, the advanced light-emitting diode (LED) technology is the most common type of luminance used in hospitals. It is considered superior compared to old incandescent and fluorescent lamps that do not provide the same performance and safety.

Captain Henry Joseph Round published the very first known report of the effect of the LED systems in 1907.

Indications to use medical exam lights

The primary use of an exam light illuminates the area of interest in the body, to be visually clear and specified for the practitioner, and it could be useful for:

1- skin (dermatology)

The spectral composition of light can change the visual appearance of the skin. So, when examining the skin in the dermatology clinics, the dermatologist cannot rely on the standard room lights and should use special exam lighting. The LED system can clarify many skin problems, especially in the areas not exposed or that need magnifying. A luminance system with convenient accessories is the key tool for dermatologists to have a clear judgment and a full diagnosis for the case. 

2- Eye (ophthalmology)

The slit lamp device is an essential diagnostic tool in the ophthalmic clinic. Slit-lamp consists basically of a high-intensity lighting source that focuses on the eye within a microscope.

3- Endoscopic lights

The proper Luminous intensity, the right color rendering index (CRI), the long lamp life, and the lower temperature development are all concerns when choosing the appropriate endoscope luminance sources. A lamp is always attached to the endoscope to illuminate the internal cavities and organs. Investigational endoscopes usually come with the lamb on the main endoscope. In surgeries, multiple endoscopic ends are attached, one for the lamp and the other for the surgical devices.

4- Oral examination lights

Dental operatory needs high-quality intense lighting to illuminate the oral cavity. There are different models of devices that cover the dentistry area. Most of them depend on the LED technology for the quality of performance it provides.

Complications of using an exam light

1- Ophthalmic complications

It is a fact that the overhead surgical lights system may cause a retinal irradiance with one-third that of the indirect ophthalmoscope. This is risky, since ophthalmic surgery may take a long time enough to exceed the maximal tolerable exposure for the eye.

2- Skin complications

A typical LED examination of the skin rarely produces complications. However, Wood lamp is invisible to the naked eye, but it emits long-wave ultraviolet light. Patients with extreme photosensitivity might develop a skin rash in the area exposed to the Wood lamplight.

Alternative Instruments to exam lights

In addition to LED, there are two other luminance systems

1- Incandescent lamps

Conventional incandescent lamps are not popular in the medical field and are usually in houses. They often have a good color rendering index, but short product life. On the other hand, Incandescent lamps have the least energy-efficient electric source with low luminous efficiency.

2- Fluorescent lamps

Fluorescent lamps fall in between LEDs and incandescent lamps in terms of lifetime and luminous efficiency. They are more expensive than incandescent lamps but usually cheaper than LEDs.

General specifications of exam light

When judging a lighting system, The key specifications of interest are mostly the luminance, the color rendering index, and produced temperature.

1- Luminance

500 lux is sufficient for the average lighting in the examination room, but the minimum requirement for Exam lamps is 1000 lux.1.

Maximum central illumination (EC) should be anywhere between 40,000 and 160,000 lx at the center of the patch, and one meter away from the light source.

The illumination must be regular, constant, and with a minimum glare to reduce eye strain. 

The approximate diameter is 400-700mm for a light-head diameter.

2- Color Rendering Index

Excellent color rendering is anywhere greater than 80CRI, while 90CRI is optimal.

3- Color temperature

The optimal color temperature is between 3500K, 4000K.

Operating room (OR) lights 

In contrast to basic examination lighting, surgical room lighting in its design secures an extended period of performance, with the lowest possible produced heat. A voltage converter is necessary to lower the voltage to the LED system requirement, which mostly consists of single or multiple light-head networks attached to a fixed or a mobile arm. 

Many functional integrations could be attached to the lighting arm, such as a camera to record the surgical operation and other technical integrations.

Operating room lights Specifications

1- Dimensions: 400mm-700mm

2- Weight: 45 Kilograms

3- Consumables: Lamps

4- Average product lifetime: 10 years

How does an exam light work 

Exam lights work by emitting a regular, consistent beam with optimal central illumination (EC), the convenient volume of light, and well management for Shadow and Heat.

1- Heat Management

Heat production is in two significant places: the light patch area and the light-head. Heat may cause discomfort for the surgeon and can cause dryness for the patient tissue during the procedure.

2- Shadow Management

There are two major shadow types: contour shadows and cast shadows. While Cast shadows interfere with visibility, contour shadows secure an excellent standard depth and volume. A sufficient lighting system depends on the minimized cast shadows and the enhanced contour.

We can minimize cast shadow as it depends on the fact that it inversely relates to the number of light sources. This means producing more light beams will improve shadow dilution, which enhances the visualization for the surgeon.

Operating steps

1- The exam light is switched on, and moved to the optimal position over the operating place.

2- Light Features could be changed intra-operatively according to the surgeon's need, and the medical team can manually control positioning, tone of lighting, and the temperature.

3- In case of emergency, lighting systems come with substitute lamps that switched on automatically if one or more primary lamps failed during surgery.

Market Leaders

1- Burton Medical

Top Products: AIM HI LED/ Outpatient LED/ UV LED Magnifier

2- American Diagnostic Corporation (ADC)


3- Welch Allyn

Top products: GREEN SERIES™ 300

4- Villard Médical

5- Planet Lighting

6- Getinge Healthcare company

7- Steris PLC

8- DRE Inc

9- Midmark



The variety of choices in the medical exam lights makes the market rich in options. It covers all areas of needs in all clinical settings. LED technology is leading the market as most manufacturers shifted to LED for the properties that make it the highest quality and performance available in luminance systems. Ask the manufacturer about the available models and specifications for each one to make your purchase an accurate match to your need. A user manual and guide will further help in the process of use, and continual maintenance for the lamps and the system guarantee you a long product life. Exam lights enhanced the quality of clinicians' work in all medical procedures aspects in different fields. An exam light can be helpful for skin, eye, oral, dental, and internal illumination via endoscopic devices, paving the path for a new generation of advanced medical diagnostic methods, and advanced surgical procedures as well. 

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