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Do (small) spectacles endanger surgeons?

14 September 2005

Do (small) spectacles endanger surgeons?

The increasingly slim design of modern spectacles may look great on the hip medicos of television dramas like ER or Grays Anatomy but research shows real surgeons who wear them could be endangering their health and their careers.
In a paper entitled, “Do spectacles endanger surgeons?” which will be presented at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons Annual Scientific meeting in Hamilton this week, surgical trainee, Dr Simon Chong, says that modern fashion spectacles offer health workers little protection from disease if they are accidentally splashed in their eyes by infected blood during operations.

He says the practice of wearing prescription glasses, as eye protection is outdated and dangerous, especially given the availability of properly designed safety glasses and face shields.
Surgeons not only face serious illness if they contract diseases like HIV-Aids or hepatitis.

Under Royal Australasian College of Surgeons guidelines such a diagnosis means they must stop performing operations, putting an immediate end to their careers.
Dr Chong says that although uncommon, such accidents have been documented in medical literature over the last thirty years.

"In the ‘70’s, 80’s and early ‘90’s the fashion was for much bigger lenses. While they weren’t as good as safety glasses, they did cover much of the eye and offered more protection than the slender spectacles in favour today.”

In order to assess the protective benefit offered by fashionable spectacles under operating theatre conditions, Dr Chong's team invited all surgeons and surgical registrars at Waikato Hospital to participate in their study.

Assuming mock operating postures, a variety of anatomical measurements were taken, such as eye and spectacle dimensions, head tilt, and eye-to-hand height. Some of these were difficult, and innovative use of digital photography proved necessary. Each surgeon was mathematically analysed to describe how blood would splash into his or her eyes. In nearly all cases, their spectacles failed to protect them.


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