The pain of surgery: pain experienced by surgeons while operating

Int J Surg. 2010;8(2):118-20. doi: 10.1016/j.ijsu.2009.11.008. Epub 2009 Nov 24.


Introduction: The operating theatre can be a dreaded experience not only for the patient but also occasionally for the surgeon. We sought to investigate the prevalence of pain experienced by surgeons while operating.

Methods: One hundred and thirty anonymous questionnaires were sent to surgical consultants in the Britain.

Results: The response rate was 60% and 63 experienced pain while operating. The back and neck were the most common areas of pain (36 & 30 consultants respectively), followed by the hand (24 consultants). Nearly 80% described pains on a regular basis. Table height was the most common cause of pain (35%), followed by the use of microscopes (27%) and standing (22%). Nearly 43% of the consultants will take a break from surgery because of their symptoms, and 4 took sick leave in direct relation to pain experienced as a result of operating. However only 27% took measures to reduce their symptoms and 65% never sought any help or advice and only one consultant informed the occupational health department.

Conclusion: Many surgeons will experience pain while operating due to positioning or the instruments they use, however there are no guidelines from occupational health departments or training courses to help minimise these symptoms.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • General Surgery / methods*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Low Back Pain / diagnosis
  • Low Back Pain / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Neck Pain / diagnosis
  • Neck Pain / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / diagnosis
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Health*
  • Operating Rooms
  • Pain Measurement
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom