Occupational Injuries in Surgeons
Pranay M. Parikh, MD1, Avery C. Capone, B.Sc.1, Steven P. Davison, MD, DDS1, Kenneth R. Means, MD2, Mark W. Clemens, MD1.
1Georgetown University Hospital, Washington, DC, USA, 2Curtis National Hand Center, Union Memorial Hospital, Baltimore, MD, USA.
BACKGROUND: To date, information on occupational injuries associated with the work of surgery has been limited. The purpose of this study is to assess the potential occupational hazards faced by surgeons while operating, to identify the most common disorders experienced by surgeons and estimate their prevalence, and to identify potential risk factors associated with injuries in surgeons.
METHODS: All practicing plastic surgeons were eligible for inclusion in the study. Participating surgeons completed a standardized survey instrument assessing demographic information (age, gender, years operating, specialty, loupe use, and microscope use), the incidence, frequency, severity, and etiology of injuries of the head, neck, back, and upper extremity, as well as the validated QuickDASH instrument to assess the degree of disability resulting from surgeons' injuries. Multivariate regression analysis of the data was performed to identify associations between injuries and risk factors.
RESULTS: 210/292 surgeons contacted completed surveys, yielding a response rate of 72%. In the head, neck, and back, the most commonly reported injuries were muscle strains (66%), vision changes (38%) and cervical disc degeneration (33%). In the upper extremity, the most commonly reported injuries were carpal tunnel syndrome (19%), shoulder arthritis (18%), and medial/lateral epicondylitis (16%). 75% of participants reported at least 1 percutaneous exposure within the 12 months of survey participation, while 52% experienced splash exposures. 55% of participants were being treated for health conditions related to operating, with medication, physical therapy, or surgery. 62% of participants who reported an injury perceived their injuries to be related to the work of operating. The average QuickDASH: score of those surveyed was 4.80, with mean work module scores and mean ports/performing arts module scores of 3.83 and 6.39 respectively. Age, number of years in practice, and loupe use were significantly associated with reported injuries.
CONCLUSIONS: Injuries of the neck, back, and upper extremity were prevalent in our sample of surgeons. Although the majority of participants perceived these injuries to be related to the work of operating, the vast majority did not feel that their injuries resulted in occupational or personal disability. Although no causal relationships can be determined from this survey, efforts to better understand the incidence of these injuries may provide valuable information to improve operating room ergonomics and workplace safety for surgeons.