The Stitch

Wearable technology gives surgeons data to improve posture during surgery

Four surgeons in blue scrubs looking down on a surgery table.

Have you ever wondered how surgeons cope with those super-long surgeries? A recent study by Baylor College of Medicine and University of Arizona researchers might have the answer.

Researchers recruited 10 neurosurgeons, five attendings and five trainees, and gave them two wearable sensors – one attached to the back of their heads and the other to their upper backs. These sensors tracked how long they held extended, neutral and flexed positions during spine and cranial surgeries.

Surgeons have always known that staying in one position for too long isn’t great for their bodies. In this study, researchers found surgeons remained static for around 77 minutes during cranial procedures. This means there is room for improvement, given that the American College of Surgeons recommends avoiding static postures for longer than 30 minutes.

Dr. Alejandro Zulbaran-Rojas

“Wearable technology can spot and provide self-awareness of those periods when surgeons neglect their posture,” said Dr. Alejandro Zulbaran-Rojas, the first author and a research associate in the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery.

The authors concluded that while it might seem intuitive to keep a perfectly straight posture, surgical work often demands a variety of body positions to reach different parts of the body and structures effectively. They pointed out that wearable tech can provide objective feedback to surgeons about static positions they might miss, helping them spot and fix bad habits early on to prevent long-term injuries.

Researchers also found that taller surgeons neglected their posture more during cranial surgeries. Therefore, surgeons can use their data to plan for adjustments to their posture in future procedures.

Bijan Najafi

“Using wearable tech to monitor and analyze surgeons’ posture offers a proactive approach to prevent musculoskeletal issues like back and neck pain, leading to healthier surgeons and better outcomes,” said Dr. Bijan Najafi, the corresponding author and a professor in the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery. “Plus, personalized training programs based on this data could revolutionize surgical education, setting up new surgeons for success from day one.”

Researchers are excited at the prospect of technology assisting surgeons in improving their posture while performing surgeries and, ultimately, their long-term health. They noted that this wearable technology may also be helpful for other specialties as well, but further research would be needed.

By Tiffany Harston, communications associate in the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery

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