Occupational Injury Among Orthopaedic Surgeons

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Background:Orthopaedic surgery is a physically demanding profession that requires many hours per week in body positions known to contribute to musculoskeletal injury and pain. Injuries to surgeons can affect the delivery of care and impose costs on the health care system. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence and types of injuries sustained at the workplace during the career of an orthopaedic surgeon as well as the impact of such injuries on practicing surgeons.Methods:A survey was developed to assess occupational injury among orthopaedic surgeons. Electronic surveys were distributed via e-mail to all orthopaedic surgeons in Tennessee. Data were analyzed to determine statistical associations of demographic and workplace factors with the rate of injury.Results:One hundred and forty (28%) of 495 surveys were returned, with representation from all orthopaedic subspecialties. Sixty-one (44%) of the respondents reported sustaining one or more injuries at the workplace during their career. A significant association was found between years performing surgery and prevalence of injury (p = 0.03), with surgeons working between twenty-one and thirty years reporting the most injuries. Twenty-five percent of respondents reported sustaining an injury to the hand; 19%, to the lower back; 10%, to the neck; 7%, to the shoulder; and 6%, to another area. Fourteen (10%) of all surgeons reported missing work as a result of a workplace injury, with five (4%) missing at least three weeks. Twenty-three surgeons (38% of injured respondents) reported that no institutional resources were available to support their recovery from the injury.Conclusions:Our study is the first of its kind, to our knowledge, to demonstrate that many orthopaedic surgeons sustain occupational injuries during their careers. The volume of work missed suggests that occupational injury has economic implications for the health-care system and providers. Given the number of injured respondents reporting no institutional support for occupational injuries, more attention should be focused on this issue.

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