Physical pain and musculoskeletal discomfort in vascular surgeons

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Journal of vascular surgery


Objective Work-related pain and disability have been reported in the literature among surgeons. This national survey was designed to identify the prevalence and severity of these symptoms in vascular surgeons. Methods A survey was emailed to the 2910 members of the Society for Vascular Surgery. Physical pain was evaluated based on body part, and type of vascular procedure performed using the Borg 0 to 10 pain scale. Wellness questions were also queried. Results A total of 775 of Society for Vascular Surgery members responded, with a 26.6% response rate. Retirees were excluded from the study (n = 39). Among those actively working (n = 736), surgeons have been practicing surgery, on average, for 17.2 ± 11.6 years, with a mean age of 51.4 ± 10.9 years, and 83.6% are male. After a full day of open surgery, the majority of the responding vascular surgeons are in a moderately strong amount of pain (mean score, 4.4 ± 2.3). After a full day of endovascular procedures, most vascular surgeons are in a moderately strong amount of pain (mean score, 3.9 ± 2.4). Pain after open surgery is greatest in the neck, and after endovascular surgery pain is highest in the lower back. Surgeons performing endovenous procedures demonstrated the lowest pain scores (2.0 ± 2.0). In total, 36.9% (242/655, 81 missing responses) have sought medical care for work-related pain, with 8.3% (61/736) taking time away from the operating room. Of those, 26.2% (193/736) report pain severe enough that it interferes with sleep. Seventy-two (10%) required surgery or other significant medical procedures. Of the 39 retirees, 26% ended their careers owing to physical disabilities from work-related pain. Out of the entire cohort, 52.7% (334/633,103 missing responses) feel that physical discomfort will affect the longevity of their careers. Additionally, we found that high work-related physical discomfort is significantly associated with burnout (burnout vs no burnout; P < .0001). Conclusions Our study shows that the majority of practicing vascular surgeons responding to the survey are in pain after a day of operating. Addressing work-related pain serves to improve the lives and careers of vascular surgeons and enhance surgical longevity.

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