Intraoperative musculoskeletal discomfort and risk for surgeons during open and laparoscopic surgery

Liyun Yang, Tianke Wang, Tiffany K. Weidner, James A. Madura, Melissa M. Morrow, M. Susan Hallbeck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Surgeon workload is significant both mentally and physically and may differ by procedure type. When comparing laparoscopic surgery and open surgery, studies have reported contrasting results on the physical and mental workload assessed. Methods: Wearable posture sensors and pre-/post-surgical questionnaires were employed to assess intraoperative workload and to identify risk factors for surgeons using objective and subjective measures. Results: Data from 49 cases (27 open and 22 laparoscopic surgeries performed by 13 male and 11 female surgeons) were assessed. More than half the surgeons reported a clinically relevant post-surgical fatigue score. The surgeons also self-reported a significant increase in pain for the neck, upper back, and lower back during/after surgery. Procedural time had significant impacts on fatigue, body part pain, and subjective (NASA-TLX) workload. The objectively assessed intraoperative work postures using wearable sensors showed a high musculoskeletal risk for neck and lower back based on their posture overall. Open surgeries had significantly larger neck angles (median [IQR]: 40 [28–47]°) compared with laparoscopic surgeries (median [IQR]: 23 [16–29]°), p < 0.001) and torso (median [IQR]: 17 [14–22]° vs. 13 [10–17]°, p = 0.006). Conclusion: Surgeons reported significantly higher levels of fatigue and pain in the neck and lower back during or after performing a surgical case. Longer procedural time resulted in more self-rated fatigue, pain, and subjective workload. Open surgery had higher postural risk. Overall, surgeons spent a disturbingly high percentage of time during surgery in high-risk musculoskeletal postures, especially the neck. These results show that intraoperative postural risk is very high and that interventions are necessary to protect surgeon musculoskeletal health for optimal surgeon performance and career longevity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6335-6343
Number of pages9
JournalSurgical Endoscopy
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Laparoscopic surgery
  • Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)
  • Open surgery
  • Surgical ergonomics
  • Wearable sensor
  • Work posture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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