Experts agree that correct ergonomics is a learned behavior that must be practiced.

Performing Procedures

More Ergonomics Training Needed For Otolaryngologists

Experts agree that correct ergonomics is a learned behavior that must be practiced. The challenge is that surgeries and procedures often require that physicians adopt awkward body positions, sometimes for sustained periods of time.

Aches and pains are a common complaint among otolaryngologists, whether the pain is centered in the neck or back or is the result of a more far-reaching musculoskeletal disorder.

Data from a survey by Dr. Yona Vaisbuch entitled “Ergonomic Challenges in Otolaryngology” and published in Laryngoscope found that pain and disability, brought on by poor ergonomics, is widespread in the otolaryngology community and that surgeons rarely receive ergonomic training in a surgical context.

In a survey of 70 surgeons, in which 69 percent responded, seven in 10 reported suffering some back pain, with cervical spine pain being the most common. About 44 percent experienced the most pain while standing, while about 12 percent reported the pain was most severe when sitting.

Of those responding to the survey, 10 percent said the pain was severe enough to impact their work. Only about a fourth reported they had prior ergonomic training or education.

Experts agree that correct ergonomics is a learned behavior that must be practiced. The challenge is that surgeries and procedures often require that physicians adopt awkward body positions, sometimes for sustained periods of time.

A separate study of otolaryngologists by Dr. Cole Rodman and other authors, entitled “Quantitative Assessment of Surgical Ergonomics in Otolaryngology” and published in Otolaryngology Head Neck Surgery in 2020, found “an unacceptable level of ergonomic risk for common procedures in otolaryngology.”

Musculoskeletal pain was experienced despite the procedure duration being relatively short.

A study of 49 Irish otolaryngologists found that 75 percent who responded to a national survey reported work-related musculoskeletal disorder. The neck was the most frequently impacted location. Those findings were published in the Irish Journal of Medical Science and authored by Dr. Seamus Boyle and others.

The authors write that the findings show “a need for awareness of ergonomic principles and additional training for surgeons, including at a junior level.”

Dr. John P. Gleysteen shared suggestions for otolaryngologists for reducing pain in a presentation entitled “Surgical Ergonomics in Otolaryngology.” It is based on lessons learned from endoscopic sinus and skull base surgery:

  • Use gel mats to reduce the need for breaks and stretching
  • Take breaks every hour and stretch the upper and lower body and trunk
  • Avoid hovering over foot pedals
  • Maintain body position control
  • Place tables so that instruments can be positioned at elbow height

Follow these links for additional resources on surgical ergonomics:

Physician safety is patient safety: Good surgical ergonomics to optimize patient care | AAO-HNSF Bulletin (entnet.org)

Ergonomic considerations in endoscopic sinus surgery: lessons learned from laparoscopic surgeons - PubMed (nih.gov)

Ergonomics in the operating room: protecting the surgeon - PubMed (nih.gov)

btn.Bulletin_April-2019_FINAL_lo.pdf (ascendmedia.com)

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