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Musculoskeletal Disorders in Surgeons: What to Know

Posted by Sierra Coyle, MS, RRT-NPS on Jun 4, 2018

Surgeons and interventionalists are facing a potential “impending epidemic” concerning musculoskeletal disorders in surgeons as demonstrated in a study by the JAMA Surgery study in December 2017.musculoskeletal-disorders-in-surgeons

Lead author Bernie Lee, MD, MBA, and colleagues of the Department of Surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of 21 articles published in English or Spanish in 23 different countries between 1974 and 2016 and encompassed data from 5828 physicians. They found the most common work-related MSDs are:


Dr. Lee initiated the study due to his own struggles with pain on the job. “I wear loops, I wear headlights, and I’m plagued by constant neck pain and back pain,” he said in a podcast interview with the JAMA Network. Physicians stand in awkward positions for long periods of time, often wearing heavy headgear and gowns. Even though work-related MSDs and their symptoms are commonly discussed among surgeons, ergonomic education is severely lacking in the field.

Dr. Lee also found a high percentage of specific pain related to musculoskeletal disorders:


The prevalence of work-related musculoskeletal disorders can cause surgeons to cut back on procedures, take time off from work for rehabilitation or surgery, and even shorten careers.

Dr. Lee stresses that building awareness and education are the keys to improving surgeon health. Identifying areas in which hospitals can cultivate more ergonomically friendly environments, such as in the operating room, will go a long way to preserving the life-saving capabilities of surgeons for years to come.

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