Operating hurts: a study of EAES surgeons

Antonia C. Wells, Magnus Kjellman, Simon J.F. Harper, Mikael Forsman, M. Susan Hallbeck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Background: Work-related pain and discomfort experienced by surgeons is widely reported in the literature. A survey was, therefore, conducted to explore this issue among members of the European Association for Endoscopic Surgery (EAES). Methods: The survey was emailed to 2980 EAES members in 2017 enquiring about their working practice, musculoskeletal (MSK) pain and burnout. Results: A total of 569 (19%) surgeons responded, of whom 556 were practicing surgeons; 86% were consultants, 84% were male, and 94% were right-handed. Respondents operated on average 3.3 days/week with 27% of their procedures lasting longer than 3 h. The 386 endoscopists surveyed reported performing an average of 5.3 procedures/day with 83% performing endoscopy at least once per week. Over half of practicing surgeons (62%) reported their worst pain score was 3 or higher (10-point scale) in the past 7 working days, encompassing 71% of their open, 72% laparoscopic, 48% robot-assisted cases and 52% of their endoscopies. Of the 120 surgeons who had ever sought medical help for aches, pain or discomfort, 38% were currently in pain and 16% had considered leaving surgery due to their MSK pain, 26% had reported work-related pain to their employer, 26% had been on short-term disability during their career and 4% long-term disability due to MSK disorders. A significant proportion of the respondents (49%) felt their physical discomfort would influence the ability to perform or assist with surgical procedures in the future. These surgeons reported significantly lower satisfaction from their work (p = 0.024), higher burnout (p = 0.005) and significantly higher callousness toward people (p < 0.001) than those not fearing loss of career longevity. Conclusion: The results show that MSK pain is prevalent amongst EAES members. Nearly half the respondents had career longevity fears from pain/discomfort which, in turn, correlated with more prevalent feelings of burnout. More emphasis should be placed on the aetiology, prevention and management of musculoskeletal pain in the surgical workforce.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)933-940
Number of pages8
JournalSurgical endoscopy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 15 2019


  • Burnout
  • Endoscopy
  • Musculoskeletal pain
  • Operating theatre
  • Surgical ergonomics
  • Survey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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