Home E-Weekly March 21, 2017

Can a Computer Program Improve Surgeons' Posture?

Published: March 20, 2017

ERGONOMIC INJURY Surgeons suffer after years of manipulating instruments through small ports.

To help ease the physical demands of laparoscopic surgery, researchers have developed a computer program that alerts surgeons when their poor posture is causing the aches and pains that could shorten their careers.

Engineers at the University of Buffalo teamed with GYN surgeons at MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C., to develop the ErgoPART (ergonomics postural assessment in real-time) tool, which generates reports of factors that impact a surgeon's ergonomic comfort. The system relies on information observers input about the surgery type, the surgeon's positioning in relation to the sterile field — including the position of his neck, trunk and shoulders — and operating room features, such as the equipment that's used and how it's placed around the table.

The researchers tested the system during a single laparoscopic GYN case. Instead of attaching sensors to the surgeon to record posture, which the researchers thought might interfere with his technique, they had ergonomic experts, surgeons and medical school students watch the surgeon's posture throughout the case and input the info into the ErgoPART system.

At the end of surgery, the system generated quantitative information about the frequency and duration of dangerous body postures. This was a proof-of-concept study that showed the potential of using the system to identify pain-inducing positions for surgeons and served as an initial step toward making surgery safer.

"Everyone knows that surgeons operate in a high-stress environment," says researcher Victor Paquet, PhD, an associate professor in the department of industrial and systems engineering at the University at Buffalo. "Our research looks at something less obvious: The long-term risks that surgeons face by putting themselves in uncomfortable positions in the OR."

Daniel Cook

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