Is Repetitive Workload a Risk Factor for Upper Extremity Musculoskeletal Disorders in Surgical Device Mechanics? A Cross-Sectional Analysis

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Feb 21;17(4):1383. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17041383.


To assess the prevalence of upper extremity work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) among surgical device mechanics compared to a control group, a total of 70 employees were included and assigned to three occupational groups (grinders, packers, and control). Personal factors, work exposure, manual skill, and complaints were assessed by two self-administered questionnaires and an industry test. WMSDs were diagnosed in a standardised clinical examination. The two-one-sided t-tests (TOST) procedure was used to test the clinical equivalence of the respective grinding and packaging groups vs. the control group in terms of the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (DASH) score. Thirty-nine study participants (56%) experienced at least one WMSD at the elbow, forearm, and/or wrist, mainly with signs of epicondylitis and nerve entrapment at the medial elbow. The risk of grinders developing upper extremity WMSD was about 2.5-times higher and packers had an 8.6-fold higher risk of a clinically relevant DASH > 29 compared to the control group. However, these differences were not statistically significant. The groups were also proven to be clinically equivalent in terms of DASH score. Surgical device mechanics do not seem to have worse DASH values or be at higher risk of upper limb WMSDs compared to a control group. This is the first study to analyse and compare different workplaces in this industry that are also common in other industries.

Keywords: DASH score; Purdue Pegboard Test; repetitive work; surgical device mechanics; upper extremity; work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs).