In various ACEP News Tricks of the Trade columns, I have mentioned the importance of adequate lighting to visualize subtle injuries or pathologies. Traditional room overhead lighting is insufficient, especially if you are looking for that needle-in-a-haystack laceration in thick scalp hair or a tiny foreign body in a wound.

If you are using a traditional Tungsten penlight, you need to invest in a LED light source. LED penlights are very small (can fit on a keychain), super-bright, long-lasting, and costs only $3-30.

Alternatively, you can wear the LED light source, using a camping LED-light headgear, as I mentioned in an earlier blog. This is great for doing procedures where you need both your hands.

Other uses for strong lighting:

  1. Checking for reactive pupils in a brightly lit room. You’d hate to wonder if an equivocal eye exam is from a weak penlight or from head injury, for instance, in a trauma resuscitation.
  2. Looking for foreign bodies in general, such as in the nose, ear, wound, or any other orifice…
  3. Because I have the light on my keychain, I use it to help me open car and house doors.

This also makes a great gift for your colleagues, residents, or students. In bulk, LED lights can cost as little as $1 each. We buy these LED keychain lights with our residency logo on it for residency applicants, when they come to interview with us.

Michelle Lin, MD
ALiEM Founder and CEO
Professor and Digital Innovation Lab Director
Department of Emergency Medicine
University of California, San Francisco
Michelle Lin, MD


Professor of Emerg Med at UCSF-Zuckerberg SF General. ALiEM Founder @aliemteam #PostitPearls at Bio:
Michelle Lin, MD