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Home E-Weekly March 15, 2016

Stretch Breaks During Surgery

Published: March 14, 2016

Surgeons who pause during procedures to run through a series of stretches are more likely to avoid common ergonomic injuries and enjoy increased mental focus, according to a recent study published in the Annals of Surgery.

The study involved 63 surgeons who participated in 193 procedures without targeted stretching breaks, and 148 procedures with intraoperative targeted stretching micro breaks (TSMBs) performed every 20 to 40 minutes that included:

  • neck flexion, extension and lateral rotation;
  • backward shoulder rolls with chest stretches;
  • upper back and hand stretches;
  • low back flexion and extension with gluteus maximus squeezes; and
  • forefront and heel lifts for lower extremity and ankle stretches.

Surgeons who took TSMBs reported less pain in the neck, lower back, shoulders, upper back, wrist, hands, knees and ankles. More than half of the surgeons who stretched reported improved physical performance, one-third said they were able to focus better on the task at hand and a majority wanted to incorporate the stretching regimen into their surgical routines.

"The results are alarming with surgeons reporting pain at a level of 5 out of 10 following a routine day's work in the operating room," says study lead author Adrian Park, MD, chair of the department of surgery at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis, Md. "Injury from simply going to work is not acceptable — we need to create both low-tech and high-tech solutions for our surgeons and operating room teams.

The study notes that 87% of surgeons suffer from work-related pain and 40% burn out due to the physical and mental demands of the job. As surgeries become more complex and workloads increase, the risks of both will increase, say the researchers.

Says Dr. Park, "While the impact of targeted stretching micro breaks on patient safety remains to be defined, we know that addressing ergonomic risk will enhance surgeons' productivity, well-being, and endurance, all factors in maximizing patient safety in the operating room."

Daniel Cook

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