The effect of operating time on surgeons' muscular fatigue

P. S. Slack, C. J. Coulson, Xianghong Ma*, K. Webster, D. W. Proops

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: A study was completed to determine if operating has an effect on a surgeon's muscular fatigue. Subjects and methods: Six head and neck surgery consultants, two ENT registrars, 20 normal controls from two tertiary referral centres in the West Midlands participated in the study. Electromyography (EMG) measurements were taken throughout a day of operating and fatigue indices were compared to controls performing desk work. Results: The percentage changes in mean frequency of muscular contractions were examined; there was no significant difference in fatigue levels between consultants and registrars. Operating led to an increase in fatigue in all subjects, compared to no increase in controls performing desk work. It was also found that the brachioradialis muscle is used more than the mid-deltoid muscle and, hence, fatigues at a faster rate. Conclusions: Surgeons should be aware that their muscular fatigue levels will increase as an operation progresses; therefore, if possible, more complex parts of the operation should be performed as early as possible, or, in the case of a very long operation, a change in surgeon may be necessary.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)651-657
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2008


  • Electromyography
  • Muscular fatigue
  • Surgery


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