Hot-mic moments in the OR


When my long-time surgical coordinator Vickey saw last month’s issue of Ophthalmology Management,* she wasn’t happy. “I wish I had known they were doing an article about being awake and aware during surgery,” she said. “I’ve got a list that would have made a great companion story.”

Unbeknownst to me, over the last 20-plus years Vickey has been documenting great one-liners uttered and heard in the OR: by patients, by masked staff members, and unfortunately, by yours truly.

Imagine yourself under a drape, lightly sedated, hearing the following.

“These are all screwed up.” One line you don’t want to hear when you’re about to have cataract surgery. The manufacturer had folded the sterile drape in an odd fashion.

“This is the one the screw fell out of.” A diamond blade returned from repair.

“It’s near the shoulder. Now it’s in the neck. You’re almost out. Stop when you can.” Try explaining this line and its association with needing to switch out BSS bottles.

“Tie me up, please.” No explanation needed.

“This will be the last of your old AO lenses,” said the circulator to me … the new lenses had a different injector.

“Dr. Patterson, your patients are not as dense as Dr. Michael’s are!” The scrub tech was referring to the nuclei density of my patients’ cataracts versus those of my son’s.

“Now keep screwing it, screw it till you can’t screw anymore.” This uttered by the straight-faced IOL rep to the scrub tech trying a new lens/injector.

“I’m gonna bump this one,” what other meaning but to change the order of patients on the schedule?

“Are these used tips?” Yes, certain things can be reused, but maybe this isn’t the time to explain this point.

“The instruments are down.” Yes, the autoclave ran its cycle, but assuring the patient that the power is still on ain’t a bad idea.

“Pull my finger.” The classic glove, wrong finger in the wrong space issue. What else do you say? You need someone to pull the end of the glove to reposition.


My all-time favorite was recorded several years ago. I had decided to start doing more plastics cases. During a blepharoplasty under conscious sedation, my director of nursing, acting as circulator, dryly delivered, “Val said when you get good at this, she wants you to do her lids.” OM


  1. Calandra C. Awake and aware: the new norm? Ophthalmology Management. June 2017. .