A Survey of 450 Surgeons across Germany, the UK and the USA concluded that up to 1 in 5 laparoscopic surgeons are facing early retirement due to the cumulative toll of physical stressors in their roles.
Despite the many benefits associated with minimally invasive surgery (MAS), such as a 50% overall reduction of post-operative infection rates, there are some drawbacks sitting heavy on the shoulders of the surgeons themselves. Medical research broadly states that laparoscopic surgery tends to be more demanding than its traditional counterpart. All safe surgical conduct requires especial attention to ensure ergonomic recommendations are followed to prevent potentially career-threatening strains and injuries.
Image Credit: Lower back Pain by Marco Verch Professional Photographer
More than three-quarters of UK surgeons frequently experience back-pain while performing laparoscopic surgery, and 16% of the same survey respondents had previously sought out medical attention for related musculoskeletal injuries. Discomfort is experienced most commonly in the back, neck and shoulders, and results from the strain of static body postures, force exertion from adverse positions, repetitive movements and over-reaching that typically occurs throughout laparoscopic procedures.
There is some evidence for the protective measures of Robotic Assisted Laparoscopic Surgery (RALS), with studies demonstrating it places less demand on extreme postures, however more research is needed before any reliable conclusions may be drawn. Efforts to educate and apply surgical ergonomics throughout laparoscopic training can be career-saving for some trainees. It is worthy to note that the ergonomic set-up of OR’s and skills labs are designed with the ‘average’ body in mind, as reflected by the higher rates of back and/or muscular pain experienced by surgeons under 5 ft 3’’ or taller than 6 ft 1’’. To ensure better career sustainability, it is vital that the design of OR equipment and simulation trainers demonstrate inclusivity and adaptability. To see a range of highly portable and adaptive simulation-based trainers, please visit: https://laparosimulators.com/.