Conference Coverage

Endoscopy-related occupational injuries run rampant in gastroenterology



Three-quarters of gastroenterologists who participated in an American College of Gastroenterology–sponsored national survey indicated they have experienced endoscopy-related musculoskeletal injuries, Swati Pawa, MD, reported at the annual meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology.

Dr. Swati Pawa, a gastroenterologist at Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N.C.

Dr. Swati Pawa

Moreover, most respondents said they received zero training in ergonomic strategies for endoscopy-related injury (ERI) prevention during their fellowship training. And there’s been none since. Eighty-one percent of respondents indicated they would welcome such training, added Dr. Pawa, a gastroenterologist at Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N.C.

The survey results expose a glaring unmet need in clinical practice, she said: “There have been no published guidelines from any of the major professional GI societies to date addressing how to prevent endoscopy-related injuries.”

The 38-item survey was created by the ACG Women in GI Committee and sponsored by the ACG governing board.

Among the key findings was the identification of sex differences in the types of ERIs reported, which suggests different contributory mechanisms. For example, female gastroenterologists were more likely than were their male colleagues to have experienced ERIs involving the upper back, by a margin of 49% to 36%. Upper extremity pain was more common among the women, too, with 63% reporting hand or finger pain, compared with 53% of men. Twenty-four percent of women reported carpal tunnel syndrome and an equal percentage developed tendonitis, compared with 18% and 17% of men, respectively.

Seventy-one percent of women attributed their ERI to torquing with their right hand, as did 63% of men. Women also more frequently cited having to deal with a nonadjustable bed or monitor as contributing to injury. In contrast, roughly twice as many men as women attributed their ERI to wearing a lead apron or use of the elevator on the duodenoscope.

Equally common causes of ERIs in men and women included standing in awkward positions while supporting an endoscope, standing for a long time, and adjusting tip angulation with the left hand.

Male and female gastroenterologists differed in their practice patterns. The men had been performing endoscopy for a mean of 23 years, compared with 13 years for the women. Fifty-six percent of the men were in private practice, compared with 35% of the women. In contrast, 43% of the women worked in academic settings versus 28% of the men. Thirty percent of the male gastroenterologists characterized themselves as interventional specialists, a rate more than twice that in women, who more commonly specialized in inflammatory bowel disease.

The survey was sent to nearly 16,000 ACG members. It generated a 14% response rate. Roughly two-thirds of responses were provided by male gastroenterologists.

Dr. Pawa and her coinvestigators are now drilling down through the survey data in an effort to identify an appropriate endoscopy workload limit that’s associated with reduced ERI risk.

One audience member commented, “The incidence of ERI in your survey is much higher than most of us would expect.” He speculated that response bias might be at work, with gastroenterologists who have personally experienced an ERI being perhaps more highly motivated to be among the 14% who completed the 38-question survey. Dr. Pawa replied that the survey figures are in line with other, smaller studies.

She reported having no financial conflicts regarding her study.

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