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Overuse Syndromes May Be an Emerging Hazard for Radiologists

Overuse Syndromes May Be an Emerging Hazard for Radiologists

SEATTLE—Radiology practices that are converting to digital systems
should be alert to the possibility of overuse syndromes, based on the
experience of the radiology department at Tripler Army Medical Center,
Honolulu. Lynne Ruess, MD, chief of pediatric radiology at Tripler, reported
her department’s experience at the 101st Annual Meeting of the American
Roentgen Ray Society (abstract 175).

In a 1-year period, 4 of the 12 radiologists in the department were
diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome, or both
syndromes, Dr. Ruess said. The affected radiologists had spent a mean 31.3
months in the department, which (with the exception of mammography) has been
filmless for almost 5 years.

Work in the department entails intensive use of the keyboard and mouse,
telephone, and dictation equipment. Furthermore, three of the symptomatic
radiologists routinely perform ultrasound exams, and all are very active
academically, Dr. Ruess said. A consultation with an industrial hygienist
identified several ergonomic hazards in the radiologists’ reading area and

Five to 8 Hours a Day

A computer use survey revealed that the symptomatic radiologists averaged 8
hours of workday computer use, whereas the asymptomatic radiologists averaged 5
hours of workday computer use, Dr. Ruess said. This difference was not
statistically significant.

There was a significant difference, however, between the symptomatic and
asymptomatic radiologists in the number of products of after-hours computer use
related to academic pursuits—products such as manuscripts, grant proposals,
and documents related to graduate medical education.

"We put that together as being slightly more time during the day plus
significantly more time at night and during weekends," Dr. Ruess said.


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