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Back pain could cause a fifth of surgeons to retire early

A quarter frequently experience muscular or back pain from laparoscopic surgery

Up to a fifth of surgeons in the UK (19%), US (20%) and Germany (15%) predict they are likely to retire early because of the physical strain of conducting minimal access/keyhole surgical procedures, a poll shows.

This is the equivalent of over 3,000 surgeons in the UK, according to the report from CMR Surgical.

The survey of over 450 surgeons, who regularly perform laparoscopic surgery, found 30% experienced discomfort during surgery due to the awkward positions undertaken, with three in four surgeons having experienced back pain.

Over a quarter of surgeons said they frequently experience muscular or back pain as a result of surgery.

In addition, up to 16% of surgeons have had to consult with a healthcare professional as a result of musculoskeletal injuries from conducting minimal access/keyhole procedures.

The report warns that the physical strain of conducting minimal access procedures is further adding to an existing workforce crisis. A recent study found that over half (53%) of senior doctors in the NHS said there were frequently gaps in hospital medical cover that raises significant patient safety issues.

Adrian Park, Professor of Surgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said surgeons of all stripes are reporting musculoskeletal pain and injuries as a result of going to work every day.

“It is hard to imagine that those responsible for any other workplace, let alone one where the stakes are so high, such as in surgery, would tolerate rates of ‘worker injury’ such as are now being reported by surgeons,” he added.

Mark Slack, chief medical officer at CMR Surgical, said surgical robotics can play a role in extending surgical careers by allowing surgeons to perform laparoscopic surgery with a choice of ergonomic solutions more typically found in offices across the world.