Laparoscopy: Patients Benefit, But Do Surgeons Suffer?

When compared with open surgical techniques, the benefits of minimally invasive surgery have been well documented in medical literature, including increased safety, quicker recovery, shorter hospital stays, and cosmetic advantages. Nonetheless, surgeons who perform a majority of their cases laparoscopically appear to encounter physical stress and mental strain beyond what they experience when performing open surgery. New survey findings suggest that surgeon burden may be greater than previously assumed. “Surgeon injuries appear to be a significant problem that not only affects surgeons but also all stakeholders in the delivery of healthcare, particularly surgical care,” says Adrian E. Park, MD. “Any type of surgery, particularly minimally invasive surgery, takes a physical and mental toll on surgeons. They continuously adapt to ensure the best outcome for patients, often dipping hugely into their own health reserve. We’re not going to serve our patients, the public, or the healthcare system well if we have prematurely shortened careers because of the physical tolls and cognitive ravages of what we do.” Scant literature is available on the extent to which strain during laparoscopy affects surgeons’ bodies when compared with open surgery. In a study in the March 2010 Journal of the American College of Surgeons, Dr. Park and colleagues published a study that sought to confirm the prevalence of minimally invasive surgery-related operator symptoms and discomforts within a broad population of laparoscopic surgeons. Since previous surveys, the adoption rate of minimally invasive procedures has steadily grown, and more surgeons are now performing these surgeries than ever before. According to findings from the study, a fairly astounding number of injuries or symptoms were related to occupation...