National Survey Examines the Extent, Effects of Pain in Vascular Surgeons


Work-related pain and disability have been reported in the literature among various surgical specialties and can influence surgeon productivity and burnout. In Friday’s Scientific Session 4, Max Wohlauer, MD, of the University of Colorado, Denver, will report on a study that he and his colleagues performed to identify the prevalence and severity of pain symptoms in vascular surgeons.

Dr. Max Wohler

Dr. Wohlauer will report on their survey, which was emailed to 2,910 members of the Society for Vascular Surgery. Pain was reported using the 0–10 Borg’s CR-10 scale, with 0 = no pain, 3 = moderate, 4 = somewhat strong, 5 = strong, and 10 = maximum pain.

Dr. Wohlauer and his colleagues received responses from 775 (26.6%) of the vascular surgeons; with retirees excluded from the study. Among those actively working, the mean age was 51.4 years, and the surgeons had a mean of 17.2 years in practice; 83.6% of the respondents were men.

According to the survey, after a full day of open surgery, the majority of vascular surgeons reported being in a somewhat strong amount of pain (mean score 4.4), while after a full day of endovascular procedures, most vascular surgeons reported being in a moderate amount of pain (mean score 3.9).

Pain following a day of open surgery was highest in the neck (45%) and lower back (39%);after endovascular procedures, respondents reported pain to be most severe in the lower back (44%) and neck (24%). Surgeons performing endovenous procedures report the lowest pain scores (mean 2.0).

In terms of treatment, 242 (36.9%) vascular surgeons reported having sought medical care for work-related issues, with 61 (8.3%) taking time away from the operating room. A total of 72 surgeons (10%) reported requiring surgery and other procedures (including traction), and 22 (3%) had been placed on short- or long-term disability.

In total, 193 (26.2%) of surgeons report pain severe enough that it interfered with sleep, with 9 (1.2%) leaving their career because of disability from work-related pain, and high work-related physical discomfort was significantly associated with Maslach Burnout Inventory single-item measure of burnout for open surgery, endovascular, and endovenous procedures, according to Dr. Wohlauer.

Altogether, 334 (50.6%) of the vascular surgeons surveyed reported that physical discomfort will affect the longevity of their career. This is borne out by the fact that, of the 39 respondents no longer practicing surgery, 26% (10) retired because of disability from work-related pain.

“Our study shows that the majority of practicing vascular surgeons are in pain after a day of operating. Work-related disability is significantly diminishing the workforce. Addressing work-related pain serves to improve the lives and careers of vascular surgeons, while enhancing surgical longevity would help address the current national workforce shortage,” Dr. Wohlauer concluded.

8-9:30 a.m.
Gaylor National, Potomac A/B
S4: Scientific Session 4: SS12


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