Tool Alerts Surgeons If Their Posture Is A Problem

Surgeons can spend hours in awkward positions in the operating room. It’s not uncommon for them to report shoulder, neck, and lower back pain.

A new tool called ErgoPART helps identify poor posture and spot pain-inducing positions—an initial step toward making surgery safer for surgeons and ultimately for patients.


“Everyone knows that surgeons operate in a high-stress environment. Our research looks at something less obvious: the long-term risks that surgeons face by putting themselves in uncomfortable positions in the OR,” says Victor Paquet, an associate professor in industrial and systems engineering at the University at Buffalo. Paquet co-led the research.

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To develop the tool, Paquet and colleagues paired with vaginal surgeons at MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C. According to recent studies, vaginal surgeons are more likely to suffer chronic pain compared to other surgeons.

The team decided against attaching sensors to a surgeon because the devices could interfere with the surgeon’s work. Instead, they relied on four observers: two ergonomics researchers, a female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery fellow, and a pre-medical undergraduate.

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The observers entered their data into a software program that records information about the surgery, the surgeon’s positioning, task information, operating room features, and more. The software provides users visual feedback and other help to reduce the likelihood of coding errors.

“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.

“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,” says Xinhui Zhu, who co-led the research as a graduate student at the University at Buffalo. Zhu now works as an assistant professor of industrial engineering at Oregon State University.

The team published their results in the journal IISE Transactions on Occupational Ergonomics and Human Factors.

Source: University at Buffalo

Original Study DOI: 10.1080/24725838.2016.1276032

Article by Cory Nealon-Buffalo