Ergonomics In The Operating Room – Part 1

I often say that I would be in great shape if it weren’t for this skeleton of mine. When you think about it, our skeleton wasn’t meant to last much longer than 40 years. We have evolved over many thousands of years, yet our lifespan has doubled over the last century.

We often put ourselves in awkward positions for extended periods of time. It’s no secret that ergonomics is essential in the workplace, but we often fail to put this knowledge into practice. We’ll begin this series with video monitor placement.

With the growing number of laparoscopic and robotic procedures, surgeons often find themselves in front of a computer monitor for many hours each week. Most people think that the ideal monitor height is at eye level. The best monitor position is actually twenty degrees below eye level with the monitor angled slightly up (perpendicular to the line of sight). Of course, it should be positioned directly in front of the surgeon or assistant in order to avoid turning one’s head to the side.

So why should the monitor be so low? In the same way that we look at a computer monitor, our eyes want to see detail while performing surgery. As a result our pupils accommodate and converge (point inward). These actions occur best at a downward angle. At eye level, either our eyes become fatigued, or our neck will unnaturally extend backwards.

Unfortunately, we often ignore proper monitor placement. In fact, with the addition of more devices in the operating room – including the robotic system, unobstructed views are becoming limited. In addition, as we perform more surgeries in a seated position, monitors that are suspended from booms will often not extend below eye level. It certainly makes you appreciate the little things in life.