What Is a Surgical Microscope?

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  • Written By: Glyn Sinclair
  • Edited By: Rachel Catherine Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 31 March 2020
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A surgical microscope is a device used during microsurgery for a wide range of medical issues. Procedures such as Ear, Nose, and Throat surgery (ENT), orthopedic surgery, and brain surgery are all procedures that can benefit from the use of a surgical microscope. The devices are equipped with a variety of lenses for increased magnification and can be changed to another lens of higher focal length, if necessary. Many surgical microscopes have foot-operated controls so that the surgeon’s hands are free to perform the operation at hand. Some of the devices can be worn on the surgeon’s head and are equipped with a light.

The various types of specialized surgical microscopes include neurosurgical microscopes for surgery involving the nervous system, ophthalmic microscopes for eye surgery, and operating microscopes for procedures such as plastic and reconstructive surgery. These devices can also be used for surgery on the inner ear and blood vessels of the heart. Dentists will often use a dental surgical microscope when performing delicate procedures inside the oral cavity. The microscopes may have multiple viewing heads for medical or dental assistants. These can also used for teaching purposes.


The foot controls of the surgical microscope not only adjust the focus and magnification, they are often able to control the movement of the surgeon's head. When assistants are involved in the surgery they may have a second viewing lens to observe at a different magnification to that of the surgeon. Sometimes as many as three assistants are able to view through the same scope. This allows the assistants to be involved in the surgery on a real-time basis. Very often the surgical microscope will have a video display attached and other medical personnel in the operating room are able to keep an eye on the surgery as well.

With the development of these sophisticated devices it is now possible to reattach limbs, perform surgery on the spine and brain, and reconnect minute blood vessels. All the surgical microscopes have superior illumination mechanisms, as well as good visual depth of field. This allows the surgeon to continue operating without having to constantly readjust the focus. The microscopes can come with back up light systems, in case of failure in the primary bulb during a critical phase of the surgery. The system is equipped with a boom arm so that the surgeon is able to swing the microscope out of his way with one simple move.


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