Occupational Injury in Plastic Surgeons

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Little research to date has investigated musculoskeletal injury in the surgical workforce. This study estimates the prevalence and functional impact of work-related injury in plastic surgeons and other surgical specialists.


A validated self-assessment of work-related injury was administered to surgeons at various professional conferences, over the telephone, and via email. Prevalence rates for each injury were tabulated, and a regression analysis was conducted to identify potential associations between demographic risk factors and self-reported injury.


Of 500 surveys administered, 339 (67.8 percent) were returned. Musculoskeletal symptoms were observed in 81.5 percent of surveyed surgeons. Of 17 injuries of interest, the most prevalent conditions were muscle strain, vision changes, cervical pain, lumbar pain, and shoulder arthritis/bursitis. Carpal tunnel syndrome and epicondylitis were reported by 15.1 and 13.5 percent of respondents, respectively, more than three times general population prevalence rates. Years in practice were associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. Microscope usage of 3 hours or more per week was associated with cervical and thoracic pain. Hand surgeons appeared to be more prone to thumb arthritis than other specialties.


Self-reported injury is more prevalent in surgery than in previously described, labor-intensive populations. Sampled surgeons appear younger than the general surgery workforce, and as a result, this study may underestimate the prevalence of occupational injury, particularly carpal tunnel syndrome. This study underscores the need for a formal, multicenter assessment of occupational injury in surgeons.

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