Adult Reconstructive Surgery: A High-Risk Profession for Work-Related Injuries

Saad M Alqahtani, Mohammad M Alzahrani, Michael Tanzer
Journal of Arthroplasty 2016, 31 (6): 1194-1198

BACKGROUND: Adult reconstructive surgery is an orthopedic subspecialty characterized by surgical tasks that are physical, repetitive, and require some degree of stamina from the surgeon. This can result strain and/or injury of the surgeon's musculoskeletal system. This study investigates the prevalence of work-related injuries among arthroplasty surgeons.

METHODS: A modified version of the physical discomfort survey was sent to surgeon members of the Hip Society, the International Hip Society, and the Canadian Orthopedic Arthroplasty via email. One hundred and eighty-three surgeons completed the survey.

RESULTS: Overall, 66.1% of the arthroplasty surgeons reported that they had experienced a work-related injury. The most common injuries that occurred were low back pain (28%), lateral epicondylitis of the elbow (14%), shoulder tendonitis (14%), lumbar disc herniation (13%), and wrist arthritis (12%). Overall, 27% of surgeons took time off from work because of the injury. As the number of disorders diagnosed increased, there was a significant increase in the incidence of requiring time off work because of the disorder (P < .001) and also exacerbation of a previously diagnosed disorder (P < .01). Factors that significantly increased the risk of the surgeon requiring time off because of the disorder were age >55 years, practicing for more than >20 years, and performing >100 total hip arthroplasty procedures per year (P < .05). In addition, 31% of the orthopedic surgeons surveyed required surgery for their injury.

CONCLUSION: Although most studies concentrate on the importance of patient safety and thus the quality of the health care system, the surgeon's safety is also considered an integral part of this system's quality. This study highlights a high prevalence of musculoskeletal work-related injuries among arthroplasty surgeons and indicates the need for the identification of preventive measures directed toward improving the operative surgical environment and work ergonomics for the surgeons.

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