LAPFORM: "Online Vocational Training course on laparoscopy's ergonomics for surgeons and laparoscopic instruments' designers"

The field of surgery is currently undergoing drastic changes in an effort to provide less invasive solutions for patients. Laparoscopic techniques represent a key milestone in the development of modern surgery, and it has been adopted as the gold standard for a growing number of procedures, offering a step change in quality of care, patient satisfaction and efficiency in use of health service resources. These techniques might provide several advantages over open surgery procedures such as faster recovery, shorter hospitalization, lower postoperative pain, and better cosmetic results. For these reasons, in recent years there has been a progressive increase in the number of services and professionals worldwide, from different medical specialities, who use minimally invasive surgery techniques. It is predicted that this increase will be maintained or even extended with new indications in the search for better efficacy and perfecting of existing techniques.

However, laparoscopic surgery is more demanding and it involves a series of risks for the surgeon. In fact, the increased technological complexity and sometimes poorly adapted equipment and surgical instruments have led to increased complaints of surgeon fatigue and physical discomfort during laparoscopic surgery, associated with reduced freedom of movement and forced postures, which lead to greater muscle fatigue that can a posteriori lead to severe musculoskeletal disorders. Hence, ergonomic integration and suitable laparoscopic operating room environment are essential to improve efficiency, safety, and comfort for the operating team, while reducing physical strains on surgeons (mainly on novel surgeons).

In laparoscopic surgery, there are few references on the introduction of training programs in ergonomics, despite the numerous advantages demonstrated in other disciplines. The lack of ergonomic guidelines awareness in current formative contents is a major problem that poses a tough position for ergonomics in the operating room. In fact, according to a recent European study, 89% of the surgeons and residents were unaware of ergonomic guidelines, although 100% stated that they find ergonomics important. The application of ergonomic criteria in the surgical field could have great benefits, both for surgeons and patients.

From industry's point of view, the poorly designed surgical tools, not considering ergonomics in the design of the instruments, produce inconveniences in both functional and cognitive aspects; including tactile sensation and visual-motor space coordination. The medical community is increasingly concerned about the ergonomic disadvantages and risks associated with faulty, substandard or misused equipment. They claim this risk should be minimized in a 21st Century surgical service.

Innovation capabilities of companies rely on the competences and skills of their workforce, but at present, there are neither formal nor informal training courses specifically applied to laparoscopic instruments design. It is known that, in spite of some information sources and tools are available (e.g. scientific bibliography, technical studies, research results or design criteria) and companies recognize the need for continuous innovation strategies, in practice, design teams of European SMEs find difficult to introduce ergonomic innovations because they lack specific training and skills on how to design ergonomically performing instruments for laparoscopic surgery.

Therefore, training on surgical ergonomics would mean a great benefit for companies aimed at designing and manufacturing of laparoscopic instruments, since they could benefit from emerging ergonomic-oriented knowledge in order to improve their product's value-added and competitiveness in the international market.

LapForm project will cover the mentioned lacks of training, improving the capacities of the European professionals (in the medical and industry's sector) and providing new skills for emergent activities that this type of workers should deploy in their daily work, enclosed in the "Developing Vocational Skills considering the labour market needs – New Skills for New Jobs" priority.

The experts on laparoscopy and ergonomics included in our consortium have a deep experience in this kind of ergonomics and they have worked together in previous projects at national and European level, in R+D and transfer of formative contents.

Hence, replying to a real innovation pressure in the laparoscopic field, at European level, proper training and awareness among laparoscopic surgeons is essential, as well as training on ergonomic improvements in the surgical instruments will synergistically expand the application of LESS surgery, with the associated benefits for patients, and for surgeons, from now on.

To this end, LapForm project aims to create, implement and set the basis for a pan-European exploitation of a new online VET course in laparoscopy ergonomics applied to product development (instruments and equipment) addressed to design professionals, and posture and workplace-related ergonomics for surgeons.


With the support of the Lifelong learning programme of the European Union (Leonardo Da Vinci Multilateral Projects for Development of Innovation).

Start date: 01-10-2012
End date: 30-09-2014

Project number: 527985-LLP-1-2012-ES-LEONARDO-LMP

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.
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