Dealing with uncertain surgery times in operating room scheduling

Macarena Azar, Rodrigo A. Carrasco, Susana Mondschein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The operating theater is one of the most expensive units in the hospital, representing up to 40% of the total expenses. Because of its importance, the operating room scheduling problem has been addressed from many different perspectives since the early 1960s. One of the main difficulties that has reduced the applicability of the current results is the high variability in surgery duration, making schedule recommendations hard to implement. In this work, we propose a time-indexed scheduling formulation to solve the operational problem. Our main contribution is that we propose the use of chance constraints related to the surgery duration's probability distribution for each surgeon to improve the scheduling performance. We show how to implement these chance constraints as linear ones in our time-indexed formulation, enhancing the performance of the resulting schedules significantly. Through data analysis of real historical instances, we develop specific constraints that improve the schedule, reducing the need for overtime without affecting the utilization significantly. Furthermore, these constraints give the operating room manager the possibility of balancing overtime and utilization through a tuning parameter in our formulation. Finally, through simulations and the use of real instances, we report the performance for four different metrics, showing the importance of using historical data to get the right balance between the utilization and overtime.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-394
Number of pages18
JournalEuropean Journal of Operational Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 16 May 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • OR in health services
  • Operating room scheduling
  • Scheduling
  • Scheduling under uncertainty


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