The prevalence of musculoskeletal injuries in bariatric surgeons

Salman AlSabah, Eliana Al Haddad, Haris Khwaja
Surgical Endoscopy 2019, 33 (6): 1818-1827

OBJECTIVE: To investigate the prevalence of musculoskeletal (MSK) injuries in bariatric surgeons around the world.

BACKGROUND: As the popularity of bariatric surgery increases, efforts into improving its patient safety and decreasing its invasiveness have also been on the rise. However, with this shift towards minimal invasiveness, surgeon ergonomic constraints have been imposed, with a recent report showing a 73-88% prevalence of physical complaints in surgeons performing laparoscopic surgeries.

METHODS: A web-based survey was designed and sent out to bariatric surgeons around the world. Participants were queried about professional background, primary practice setting, and various issues related to bariatric surgeries and MSK injuries.

RESULTS: There were 113 responses returned from surgeons from 34 countries around the world. 68.5% of the surgeons have had more than 10 years of experience in laparoscopic surgery, 65.8% in open, and 0.9% in robotic surgery. 66% of participants reported that they have experienced some level of discomfort/pain attributed to surgical reasons, causing the case load to decrease in 27.2% of the surgeons. It was seen that the back was the most affected area in those performing open surgery, while shoulders and back were equally as affected in those performing laparoscopic, and the neck for those performing robotic, with 29.4% of the surgeons reporting that this pain has affected their task accuracy/surgical performance. A higher percentage of females than males reported pain in the neck, back, and shoulder area when performing laparoscopic procedures. Supine positioning of patients evoked more discomfort in the wrists, while the French position caused more discomfort in the back region. A higher percentage of surgeons who did not exercise experienced more issues in the neck and back region, while those that exercised more than 3 h a week experienced issues in their shoulders and wrists in both open and laparoscopic approaches. Only 57.7% sought medical treatment for their MSK problem, of which 6.35% had to undergo surgery for their issue, of which 55.6% of those felt that the treatment resolved their problem.

CONCLUSION: MSK injuries and pain are a common occurrence among the population of bariatric surgeons (66%), and has the ability to hinder performance at work. Therefore, it is of importance to investigate ways in which to improve ergonomics for these surgeons as to improve quality of life.

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