Female surgeons facing fertility issues due to operating theatre hazards – study – Stuff.co.nz


A review article by Australian and American researchers found one-third of female surgeons surveyed reported issues with their fertility, twice the rate of the general population.

Female surgeons are more than twice as likely to suffer fertility problems than other women due to hazards in operating theatres, a new study suggests.

Experts have long suspected working as a surgeon harms a woman's chances of having a baby, but assumed stress and the physical demand of the job were to blame.

Now researchers from Australia and the United Stateshave found medical risks from working as a surgeon, such as radiation, surgical smoke, anaesthetic gases and using toxic substances,may be putting fertility at risk.

More than one in 10 surgeons (12 per cent) in New Zealand are women, prompting experts to call for more research into operating theatre hazards and fertility.

The review article, published inJAMA Surgery in January, analysed asurvey ofmore than 1000 female surgeons across different specialtiesin the US.

Nearly one third(32 per cent) reported difficulty with fertility, compared to 10.9 per cent in the general population.

They found female surgeons were also more likely to experience complications during pregnancy at a rate of 35 per cent compared with 14.5 per cent generally.

The authors, from the Western Health Surgical Department in Victoria, Australia and Harvard Medical School, said occupational hazards in operating rooms could be a factor.

The potential consequences ranged from difficulty getting pregnant tomiscarriage,pretermdelivery, growth restriction and congenital abnormalities, the paper said.

Luma Pimentel/UNSPLASH

Hazards in operating rooms, such as anaesthetic gases, surgical smoke and toxic substances, were linked to issues with fertility and pregnancy such as growth restriction and congenital abnormalities, the paper stated.

Previous studies have shown exposure to radiation on a developing foetus can cause prenatal death, cognitive difficulties and a heightened risk of cancer in childhood.

It also looked at the impact of surgical smoke, includingchemicals such as1,2-dichloroethane and toluene which have beenlinked to decreased fertility in animal studies.

The authorscalled for measures to protect female surgeons of childbearing age, but warned against restrictingsurgeons' work or putting discriminatory policies in place.

Dr Richard Lander, the executive director for surgical affairs at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, said the paper was a "timely reminder" for all working in the operating theatre environmentto be aware of fertility and pregnancy risks.

Employers such as district health boards and private hospitals had a responsibility to provide a safe working environment for staff, he said.

That included providing smoke extractors in every theatre, protection from radiation and protective masks.

While the paper focused on female surgeons, the risks existed for every theatre worker, Lander said.

He said the college supported the authors' call for more research, and agreed priority should be given to controlling risk rather than restricting activity.

Landerencouraged those working in theatre whowere concerned about fertility risks to talk to their union representative, human resources or health and safety manager.

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Female surgeons facing fertility issues due to operating theatre hazards - study - Stuff.co.nz

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