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Heart. 1997 August; 78(Suppl 1): 23–28.
PMCID: PMC484842

Back pain among echocardiographers


Objective—By having to adopt unnatural postures, echocardiographers place themselves at risk of back injury. The present study sought to document the incidence and severity of back pain among echocardiographers, and to identify personal, lifestyle, and occupational characteristics that may predict risk of back pain.

Design—A questionnaire concerning occupational, personal, and lifestyle characteristics, as well as the extent and severity of back pain was completed and returned by 183 echocardiographers.

Results—The standard echocardiography examination position of “machine on the left, patient on the right, and transducer held in the right hand” (used by 66% of respondents) greatly increased the risk of back pain (odds ratio (OR) = 4·9; 95% confidence interval (95%CI) = 1·49−16·4). Echocardiographers with more than 11 years experience in the field were also at risk of back pain (OR = 3·4; 95%CI = 0·97−11·6). The intensity of back pain was strongly associated with the amount of time spent on echocardiography examinations (P = 0·035), limitation of lifestyle (P ≤ 0·001), and interference with work (P ≤ 0·001). There was a significantly higher relative risk of back pain for the respondents whose job involved frequent or occasional lifting compared with nonlifters (P = 0·01; OR = 4·8, 95%CI = 1·25−18·7). At least some limitation of lifestyle from back pain was reported by 56% of the respondents.

Conclusions—There is a high incidence of back pain among echocardiographers, and specific tasks and activities increase the risk of back pain. Further research should focus on preventative measures and optimum work station designs that may serve as a guide to echocardiography departments.

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