Improving the Breast Surgeon's Ergonomic Workload for Nipple-Sparing Mastectomies Using Exercise and Operating Room Positioning Protocol

Ann Surg Oncol. 2021 Oct;28(10):5698-5706. doi: 10.1245/s10434-021-10447-7. Epub 2021 Jul 27.


Background: The objective of this study was to examine whether an exercise program and standardized operating room positioning protocol (EOPP) would improve surgeon muscle workload and/or surgeon perception of mental/physical workload for nipple-sparing mastectomy (NSM).

Methods: This prospective study analyzed muscle workload by EMG of four surgeons performing NSM before and after an EOPP. Surveys were administered assessing surgeon perception of mental/physical workload. EMG data were analyzed using repeated-measures ANOVA, controlling for surgeon, first assistant, duration and difficulty of procedure, left or right side, and sequence of the procedure.

Results: A total of 56 NSM cases performed by 3 surgeons were analyzed. One surgeon was excluded because of muscle injury and undergoing active physical therapy during the study period. After implementation of the EOPP, the left (P = 0.005) and right (P = 0.020) upper trapezii muscles had a significant decrease in overall ergonomic workload but there was no significant change in overall ergonomic workload for the bilateral cervical erector spinae, anterior deltoid, and lumbar erector spinae muscle groups. When analyzing muscle group exertion by surgeon, there was significant variability in all muscles except the left cervical erector spinae. Following the EOPP, surgeons reported that the procedures were more physically (P = 0.01) and mentally (P = 0.002) demanding and visualization (P = 0.04) was worse. The breast laterality and sequence did not affect muscle exertion.

Conclusions: An EOPP decreased the overall ergonomic workload of one muscle group for surgeons performing NSM but did not impact surgeon perception of mental/physical workload. Further investigation is needed to improve surgeon ergonomics.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms* / surgery
  • Ergonomics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mastectomy
  • Nipples
  • Operating Rooms
  • Prospective Studies
  • Surgeons*
  • Workload