They play God in the operating rooms. After all, they are holding the scalpel and most often, the patient’s life in their hands. But what we probably don’t know is that surgeons get cut, too, and the operating table is not necessary the most comfortable of all working places. Although most of these are non-serious injuries, they can have some long-term consequences on the surgeon’s health and their ability to practice their profession.
Nowadays, it is standard to use the least invasive procedures when performing a surgery and one of the most commonly used is laparoscopy or popularly known as keyhole surgery. Laparoscopic surgery is used for a wide range of health problems from a simple appendectomy to a radical prostatectomy to remove localized prostate cancer. It has the benefits of increased safety, quicker recovery, shorter hospital stays and cosmetic advantages compared to open surgery techniques. However, these benefits are all on the side of the patient. A large survey of surgeons revealed that about 87% of laparoscopic surgeons are suffering from pain and discomfort when performing these operations, physical symptoms that amount to occupational hazard. It is because performing laparoscopic procedures is less ergonomic than performing an open surgery.
According to lead author Dr. Adrian Park
“In laparoscopic surgery, we are very limited in our degrees of movement, but in open surgery we have a big incision, we put our hands in, we’re directly connected with the target anatomy. With laparoscopic surgery, we operate by looking at a video screen, often keeping our neck and posture in an awkward position for hours. Also, we’re standing for extended periods of time with our shoulders up and our arms out, holding and maneuvering long instruments through tiny, fixed ports.”
Aside from the physical discomfort, laparoscopic surgeons tend to have higher case loads. The resulting physical symptoms include discomfort in the neck, hand, and legs that can result, in the long-term, shortened career longevity.
According to Dr. E. Albert Reece, dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
“The patient has always been the main focus of medicine, as caregivers and researchers grapple with disease treatment and prevention, enhanced patient safety and comfort and the extension of care to more people. At a time when minimally invasive, laparoscopic techniques are expanding, Dr. Park’s research raises new questions that may affect patient care in the future. It is my hope that further research will provide answers, and will help stem what may indeed be an impending epidemic among surgeons.”