Majority of laparoscopic surgeons experiencing occupational injuries

February 25, 2010

A majority?87%?of laparoscopic surgeons has experienced physical symptoms or discomfort, a new survey by University of Maryland, Baltimore researchers has found. This was especially true among those with high-case volumes, according to the results.

A majority-87%-of laparoscopic surgeons has experienced physical symptoms or discomfort, a new survey by University of Maryland, Baltimore researchers has found. This was especially true among those with high-case volumes, according to the results.

"We face a pending epidemic of occupational injuries to surgeons, and we can no longer ignore their safety and health," said first author Adrian E. Park, MD, of the University of Maryland. "If injuries among surgeons are not addressed significantly, we’re going to face a problem in the near future of a shortage of surgeons, as well as shortened career longevity among surgeons who enter, or are already in, the field."

The survey was sent to 2,000 board-certified gastrointestinal and endoscopic surgeons in North America and abroad who are members of the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons. Of the 317 surgeons completing the survey, 272 (86.9%) reported experiencing physical discomfort or symptoms they attributed to performing minimally invasive surgery. The discomfort ranged from eye strain to problems in the surgeon’s dominant hand, to neck, back, and leg pain.

Age played a role in hand problems, with younger surgeons and those over age 60 at highest risk, but there was no correlation between age and symptoms in other parts of the body.

Annual case volume emerged as a key predictor of physical symptoms. Case volume impact was seen in surgeons who had received postgraduate surgical fellowship training. Those surgeons averaged 249 cases a year, while the non-fellowship average was 192. Neck, hand, and leg symptoms rose with increased case volume.

To minimize the problems, 84% said they had changed their position, 30% said they changed instruments or took a break, and 40% said they ignored them.

Results of the study were published online in Journal of the American College of Surgeons (Dec. 24, 2009).