ARRS: Radiologist's pain could indicate poor workstation design

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Poor workspace ergonomics could be causing radiologists to experience physical pain, according to a study presented May 3 at the 2010 American Roentgen Ray Society (ARRS) annual meeting in San Diego.

The study's lead author Anand M. Prabhakar, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues said that many common musculoskeletal symptoms that radiologists experience can include lower back pain, wrist pain, shoulder pain, neck pain and headaches, which can all point to the lack of attention to workspace ergonomics.

“Over the past decade, radiologists’ workloads have increased dramatically,” stated Prabhakar, “As a result, more time is being spent in front of computer workstations.”

He explained that while attention has been paid to computer ergonomics in other industries, as well as for the general public, there has been a lack of consideration of how ergonomic issues may affect radiologists.

For their study, the researchers administered a written questionnaire to 28 randomly selected radiologists from various divisions of a single radiology department at Mass General. Of the respondents, 96 percent had two to three computer monitors at their workstation.

Prabhakar and colleagues said that of the 96 percent, only 7.2 percent of the radiologists were symptom free. Of the 96 percent of respondents, 42.8 percent complained of neck pain; 39.2 percent with lower back pain; 32.1 percent with shoulder pain; 7.4 percent with wrist pain and 32.1 percent experienced headaches.

“Work-related musculoskeletal symptoms are common in radiologists working in a digital environment,” offered Prabhakar. “Most radiologists make some effort to alter workstation ergonomics; however, it is usually insufficient.”

Prabhakar concluded that research into workstation design is important in order to minimize the potential long-term implications of repetitive stress trauma for radiologists.