| back pain

“A Physically Demanding Profession”

Take a Break and Stretch

Newswise — Almost two-thirds of surgeons reported an increase in neck pain after performing surgery, and one-quarter rated their neck or lower back pain as clinically significant, a new Mayo Clinic study has found. The research was published in the Journal of American College of Surgeons.

The study also found surgeons were in a demanding neck posture 42% of the time during laparoscopic surgery, and 80% of the time during open surgery. Laparoscopic surgery involves a smaller incision and the use of a camera.

"At the end of an operating day, a majority of surgeons hurt because of their profession," says Samuel Money, M.D., a Mayo Clinic vascular and endovascular surgeon, and study co-author. "It may not be like the NFL, but it's a physically demanding profession. It's clearly concerning that we're putting ourselves at physical risk to do our jobs."

The bigger picture, Dr. Money says, is that physical injuries ― just like emotional distress ― can lead to missed work and burnout for surgeons, and this affects patient access to care.

"This makes the problem of the surgeon workforce shortage even more severe," he says. "This will increasingly come into play as our population continues to age."

As the researchers expected, longer surgeries were correlated with more pain and fatigue. Surgeons who used loupes, or magnifying lenses, had an average increase in neck angle of 10 degrees compared to procedures without loupes.

As with neck posture, surgeons were in a demanding back posture during open surgeries 40% of the time, but just 17% of the time during laparoscopic procedures.

"We expected to see some neck pain after longer surgeries. We didn't expect to see the pain as high as it was, and we didn't expect surgeons would be in these extreme angles that long," says Susan Hallbeck, Ph.D., a scientific director in the Mayo Clinic Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery and senior author of the study.

Dr. Hallbeck said that although surgeon posture hasn't changed much through the years, a number of factors have increased the burden in the operating room.

"Operating rooms continue to add equipment to address increased patient complexity. The patients are getting sicker and the surgeries are lasting longer," she says. "So all of these things combined are a perfect storm for the surgeon to end up with musculoskeletal disorders."

The researchers hope this study and ones like it will increase awareness of this emerging issue.


Read the full press release on Newswise.