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Musculoskeletal disorders widespread among plastic surgeons, survey shows

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Arlington Heights, IL — Nearly 80 percent of plastic surgeons experience work-related musculoskeletal issues or injuries, according to the results of a recently conducted survey of practitioners.

Researchers examined questionnaire responses from 865 plastic surgeons. Analysis found that 79.5 percent of U.S. plastic surgeons reported injury or discomfort related to their jobs. The most commonly reported symptoms were pain (80.8 percent), stiffness (63.5 percent), fatigue (53.3 percent) and numbness (29.7 percent). The neck was the most affected body part (66.6 percent), followed by shoulders (52.0 percent) and lower back (39.9 percent).

Female surgeons reported experiencing musculoskeletal pain or injury at an 84.9 percent rate, compared with 76.2 percent for their male counterparts. Regarding age groups, 85.0 percent of plastic surgeons 45-54 years old reported injury or discomfort.

The researchers say good ergonomics can help alleviate discomfort and avoid injury during procedures. “When the operating table is too low, the surgeons will need to flex their necks and place their heads in a forward position, leading to neck pain. When the operating table is too high, they will compensate with shoulder abduction, leading to deltoid and trapezius strain,” they wrote.

The researchers also recommend that doctors be mindful of and adjust their posture during operations, and that they use stretching, strength training and core training to mitigate pain and discomfort.

“To sustain a long productive career, plastic surgeons must pay attention to established ergonomic principles in the operating room and condition their body outside the operating room.”

The survey results were published in the January issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

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