New tool aids surgeons with bad posture in the OR

Study examines the less understood physical stress that surgeons undergo from spending hours standing in the operating room.

By Amy Wallace

March 14 (UPI) -- Researchers at the University at Buffalo have developed a new tool to identify poor posture and correct awkward positions for surgeons in the operating room.

Surgeons often report neck, shoulder and lower back pain from standing in operating rooms for several hours a day, which can lead to sick days, decreased quality of care and early retirement.


"Everyone knows that surgeons operate in a high-stress environment," Victor Paquet, an associate professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at UB, said in a press release. "Our research looks at something less obvious: the long-term risks that surgeons face by putting themselves in uncomfortable positions in the OR."

A team of engineers and doctors at UB collaborated on developing a tool to identify pain-inducing positions to enable corrections to be made to improve posture.

The tool, called ErgoPART, or ergonomics postural assessment in real-time, was developed based on observations by a team of two ergonomics researchers, a female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery fellow, and a pre-medical undergraduate.

The team provided data after observing vaginal surgeons at MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C.

Vaginal surgeons are more likely to experience chronic pain compared to other surgeons, according to recent studies.


The data was analyzed using computer software that records information about the surgery, the surgeon's positioning, task information, and operating room features, among other data. The program then provides users visual feedback and cues to avoid.

"With this tool, surgeons, as well as occupational and health safety workers, will have immediate access to a report on when and how long they remain in non-neutral positions during surgery," Xinhui Zhu, assistant professor of industrial engineering at Oregon State University, said. "This information can be used to help individual surgeons, as well as to develop recommendations on how surgeries can be improved for the doctor and patient."

The study was published in the journal IISE Transactions on Occupational Ergonomics and Human Factors.

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