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Wearable Technology Monitors and Analyzes Surgeons' Posture during Long Surgical Procedures

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 22 Apr 2024
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Image: The wearable technology assesses surgeons’ posture during surgery (Photo courtesy of Baylor College of Medicine)
Image: The wearable technology assesses surgeons’ posture during surgery (Photo courtesy of Baylor College of Medicine)

The physical strain associated with the static postures maintained by neurosurgeons during long operations can lead to fatigue and musculoskeletal problems. An objective assessment of surgical ergonomics is needed to create better postural awareness and avoid additional complications. Despite being aware of the significant harm caused by static postures cause, neurosurgeons lack an optimal methodology for assessing their posture during procedures. Now, a new study could pave the way for surgeons to receive optimal biofeedback of their posture during long surgical procedures, thus reducing the stress related to maintaining static postures.

The pilot study by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine (Houston, TX, USA), in collaboration with the University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ, USA), assessed the feasibility of using wearable technology to evaluate the posture of neurosurgeons during long spine and cranial procedures. The study employed sensors to measure the upper body rigidity of neurosurgeons, specifically tracking whether they leaned forward or backward during procedures. Ten neurosurgeons, consisting of both attending physicians and trainees, participated by wearing two sensors—one on the back of their head and another on their upper back. These devices recorded the duration they spent in extended, neutral, and flexed static postures during the operations.

The researchers gathered and analyzed data from 16 of 20 possible recordings from 11 procedures (eight spine and three cranial). The findings indicated that surgeons maintained a static posture for about 52.1% (38 minutes) of spine surgeries and 53.2% (77.6 minutes) of cranial surgeries, which represents a significant portion of the surgery time. Considering the American College of Surgeons' recommendation to take frequent breaks every 30 minutes to perform stretches, this finding is especially relevant. The study also noted that taller neurosurgeons tended to spend more time in flexed and extended positions during cranial surgeries. These insights demonstrate that wearable technology offers a viable and effective means to objectively monitor and improve surgeons' posture, thereby helping to prevent musculoskeletal disorders among neurosurgeons.

“Wearable technology can identify those periods when neglected postures are more prevalent, enabling prompt correction,” said first author of the work, Dr. Alejandro Zulbaran-Rojas, research associate in the Michael E DeBakey Department of Surgery. “Wearable technology can provide self-awareness of static positions that are not always captured or assumed by a simple view. Detecting incorrect motion patterns at early career stages may help emerging surgeons correct their posture and avoid long-term injuries.”

“Using wearable technology to monitor and analyze surgeons' posture offers a proactive approach to preventing the onset of musculoskeletal disorders such as back and neck pain. This could lead to improved surgeon health and well-being, enhanced performance and potentially extended career longevity,” added corresponding author Dr. Bijan Najafi, professor in the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery.

Related Links:
Baylor College of Medicine
University of Arizona

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