Work-Related Musculoskeletal Discomfort and Injury in Microsurgeons

Ashley L Howarth, Susan Hallbeck, Raman C Mahabir, Valerie Lemaine, Gregory R D Evans, Shelley S Noland
Journal of Reconstructive Microsurgery 2019, 35 (5): 322-328

BACKGROUND:  Long surgical procedures with loupe magnification and microscopes may put microsurgeons at an increased risk of musculoskeletal discomfort. Identifying the prevalence and impact of work-related musculoskeletal discomfort may guide preventive strategies to prolong well-being, job satisfaction, and career duration.

METHODS:  An online 29-question survey was designed to evaluate work-related musculoskeletal discomfort. The survey was created and distributed electronically through a private survey research center and was sent to the members of the American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery.

RESULTS:  There were 117 respondents (16.7% response rate): 80% were men; 69% were aged 31 to 50 years; and 68% were in academic practice. On a scale of 0 to 10 (0, no pain and 10, worst pain), the median for work-related musculoskeletal discomfort for surgery without loupes or microscope was 2; with loupes, 4; and with a microscope, 5. Pain was most common in the neck. Half of the surgeons reported pain within 4 hours of surgery, and 57% feared that pain would influence future surgical performance. Surgeon discomfort affected posture (72%), stamina (36%), sleep (29%), relationships (25%), concentration (22%), and surgical speed (19%). Tremor caused by the discomfort occurred in 8%. Medical treatment for discomfort was sought by 29%. Time off work for treatment occurred for 8%.

CONCLUSION:  Work-related musculoskeletal discomfort can affect many aspects of a microsurgeon's life and has the potential to limit a surgeon's ability to operate. Therefore, more emphasis is needed in the surgical community on the important issues of occupational health and surgical ergonomics for microsurgeons.

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