PACS workstations bring ergonomics issues to front burner

July 7, 2003

Furniture vendors have started showing up in exhibit halls at radiology-related meetings, one indication that PACS has arrived. At least three such equipment makers were spotted at last month's Boston meeting of the Society for Computer Applications in

Furniture vendors have started showing up in exhibit halls at radiology-related meetings, one indication that PACS has arrived. At least three such equipment makers were spotted at last month's Boston meeting of the Society for Computer Applications in Radiology.

Papers addressing the issue of ergonomics in a radiology setting also appeared. One study (AJR 2003;181(1):37-42) followed work-related upper extremity musculoskeletal disorders in four radiologists, concluding that "current technology renders staff radiologists at risk for work-related upper extremity musculoskeletal disorders, including carpal and cubital tunnel syndromes."

An occupational therapist examined the four, members of the 12-radiologist department at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, who presented with complaints of upper extremity pain, numbness, and weakness or a combination of these symptoms.

One radiologist was found to have bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, and all four were diagnosed with cubital tunnel syndrome (two unilateral, two bilateral).

Each of the four had spent more than three years as a staff radiologist in the filmless Tripler department. They all performed computer keyboard and mouse or trackball image manipulation and work list navigation, typed preliminary reports and telephone notifications, and edited and approved electronically dictated final reports.

All four radiologists were academically active and had significantly greater workday hours and performed more research than asymptomatic radiologists. Three routinely performed sonography.

The industrial hygienist identified hazardous working conditions, especially related to ergonomics, in the reviewing areas and staff offices, said author Dr. Lynne Ruess.

In the past, radiologists had a break while waiting for films to arrive. Since the advent of PACS, however, radiologists may read several hours straight in a setting that is ergonomically risky, resulting in muscle strain.

Proper equipment, ergonomics, and professional consultation should be used in all radiology departments, the report said.

One company, Ergotron of St. Paul, Calgary, and Amsterdam, mounts flat-panel workstations on a patented arm technology. The arms provide single-touch, 15-inch vertical adjustment for multiple users, whether sitting or standing.

The monitor arms, which resemble the lights mounted over dental stations, can fold back and out of the way when not in use, saving desk space. They can be attached to walls, ceiling, posts, or even diagnostic equipment.