4 years ago

Prospective Study Comparing Surgeons’ Pain and Fatigue Associated with Nipple-Sparing versus Skin-Sparing Mastectomy

Martin Rosman, Christine Harris, Thomas Sanders, Wen Liang, Rubie Sue Jackson, Lorraine Tafra, Luther Holton, Charles Mylander, Robert Buras, Devinder Singh, Laura Martino, Adrian Park



Nipple-sparing mastectomy (NSM) is more technically challenging than skin-sparing mastectomy (SSM) but offers quality-of-life and cosmetic advantages. However, surgeon physical symptoms related to NSM workload have not been documented.


This was a prospective study using questionnaires to compare surgeon-reported physical symptoms before, during, and after NSM versus SSM. Surgeons also answered general questions about each mastectomy. Bilateral cases were performed simultaneously by two surgeons, who completed independent questionnaires.


Questionnaires were completed after 82 SSMs and 44 NSMs. On a 0–10 scale, surgeons reported NSM was more physically demanding than SSM (7.0 vs. 4.5, p < 0.001). Mean visualization was more difficult (5.7 vs. 3.2, p < 0.001) and mean fatigue score was greater (5.6 vs. 3.1, p < 0.001) after NSM than SSM. The mean increase in neck pain (on a 0–4 scale) was greater for NSM than SSM, both from before-to-during surgery (0.8 vs. 0.2, p = 0.003) and before-to-after surgery (0.9 vs. 0.2, p = 0.002). The mean increase in lower back pain was greater for NSM than SSM, both from before-to-during surgery (0.7 vs. 0.2, p = 0.008) and before-to-after surgery (0.9 vs. 0.2, p = 0.003). Surgeons reported that NSM was more mentally demanding (p < 0.001), complex (p = 0.01), and difficult (p < 0.001) than SSM.


Surgeons experienced greater physical symptoms, mental strain, and fatigue with NSM than SSM. This raises concern that mild but repetitive pain over the course of a breast surgeon’s career may lead to repetitive stress injury.

Publisher URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1245/s10434-017-5929-9

DOI: 10.1245/s10434-017-5929-9

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