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How many operating rooms are needed to manage non-elective surgical cases? A Monte Carlo simulation study



Patients often wait to have urgent or emergency surgery. The number of operating rooms (ORs) needed to minimize waiting time while optimizing resources can be determined using queuing theory and computer simulation. We developed a computer program using Monte Carlo simulation to determine the number of ORs needed to minimize patient wait times while optimizing resources.


We used patient arrival data and surgical procedure length from our institution, a tertiary-care academic medical center that serves a large diverse population. With ~4800 patients/year requiring non-elective surgery, and mean procedure length 185 min (median 150 min) we determined the number of ORs needed during the day and evening (0600-2200) and during the night (2200-0600) that resulted in acceptable wait times.


Simulation of 4 ORs at day/evening and 3 ORs at night resulted in median wait time = 0 min (mean = 19 min) for emergency cases requiring surgery within 2 h, with wait time at the 95th percentile = 109 min. Median wait time for urgent cases needing surgery within 8-12 h was 34 min (mean = 136 min), with wait time at the 95th percentile = 474 min. The effect of changes in surgical length and volume on wait times was determined with sensitivity analysis.


Monte Carlo simulation can guide decisions on how to balance resources for elective and non-elective surgical procedures.

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