Occupational Injury Risks Faced By Orthopaedic Surgeons

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Orthopaedic surgeons face a variety of safety risks including personal injury and even chemical exposure.
Orthopaedic surgeons face a variety of safety risks including personal injury and even chemical exposure.

Orthopaedic surgeons help many individuals in the process of recovering from injuries acquired in the workplace, but are they themselves at a high risk of occupational injury?

According to a 2013 study by The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, nearly half of orthopaedic surgeons experienced at least one injury during their career, with a longer amount of time in the workforce greatly increasing the risk of multiple injuries. Ten per cent missed worked due to an injury acquired in the workplace. This demonstrates the severity of the incidents in addition to contributing to the burden on the healthcare sector.

Musculoskeletal injuries

Known to be a physically demanding profession, orthopaedic surgeons are exposed to possible hazards on a daily basis. Musculoskeletal injuries are the most common type of injury, largely due to physical demands when performing surgery. Standing for long periods of time, as well as handling tools needed for surgery and holding large limbs to be operated on can all play a role.

Increased infections risk

Orthopaedic surgeons are often exposed to blood-borne infections when operating on percutaneous injuries. This places them at greater risk of contracting these infections and they should, therefore, take precautionary measures to prevent the passage of infectious pathogens.

Exposure to radiation

Due to the frequent need of intraoperative imaging, orthopaedic surgeons come into contact with more radiation than other health professionals. Additionally, they need to stay close to the radiation source during surgery, making it difficult to minimise exposure. 

Risks associated to chemical substances

Some materials orthopaedic surgeons come into contact with, such as Polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA), can cause damage to the skin, respiratory tract and nervous system. It is highly recommended that surgeons use appropriate protection to avoid coming into direct contact with such materials.

Noise and smoke from surgery tools

Many of the power-tools used during surgery have a high volume of noise, which may be partly responsible for nearly 50 per cent of orthopaedic surgeons developing noise-induced hearing loss and requiring a hearing aid. Surgical smoke from tools used in surgery can also have a detrimental effect, particularly on the respiratory system.

Read more about types of orthopaedic surgeon injuries

Minimising risk of occupational injury

Whilst it is clear that orthopaedic surgeons face a high risk of occupational injury, surgeons can be proactive about avoiding injuries. Being aware of the possible risks is essential to putting protective methods into place.

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