Assessment of muscle activity and fatigue during laparoscopic surgery

Tegan Thurston, James P. Dolan, Farah Husein, Andrea Stroud, Kenneth Funk, Charlie Borzy, Xinhui Zhu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Cumulative musculoskeletal stress during operative procedures can contribute to the development of chronic musculoskeletal injury among surgeons. This is a concern in laparoscopic specialties where trainees may incur greater risk by learning poor operative posture or technique early in training. This study conducted an initial investigation of the physical stress encountered during the conduct of foregut laparoscopic surgery. Methods: Subjects were divided into two groups based on their surgical experience level, high experience (HE), consisting of two attending surgeons, and low experience (LE), consisting of two fellow surgeons and a surgical chief resident. Nine distinct foregut laparoscopic procedures were observed for data collection within these groups. Electromyographic (EMG) activity was collected at the bilateral neck, shoulders, biceps, triceps, and lower back for each procedure. Physical workload was measured using percent reference voluntary contractions (%RVC) for each surgeon’s muscle activities. Fatigue development was assessed using the median frequency of EMG data between two consecutive cases. Subjects completed a NASA-TLX survey when surgery concluded. Results: LE surgeons experienced higher levels of %RVC in the lower back muscles compared to HE surgeons. LE fatigue level was also higher than HE surgeons across most muscle groups. A decrease in median frequency in six of the ten muscle groups after performing two consecutive cases, the largest decrements being in the biceps and triceps indicated fatigue development across consecutive cases for both surgeon groups. Conclusion: Surgeons developed fatigue in consecutive cases while performing minimally invasive surgery (MIS). HE surgeons demonstrated a lower overall physical workload while also demonstrating different patterns in muscle work. The findings from this study can be used to inform further ergonomic studies and the data from this study can be used to develop surgical training programs focused on the importance of surgeon ergonomics and minimizing occupational injury risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6672-6678
Number of pages7
JournalSurgical endoscopy
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • Electromyography
  • Ergonomics
  • Fatigue
  • Laparoscopic surgery
  • Muscle activity
  • Surgical fatigue

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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