NIOSH Tackles Workplace MSDs in Sonography

Feb. 2, 2007
A new publication from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) highlights the risks sonographers face in developing work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

MSDs account for one-third of all occupational injuries and illnesses reported by employers. According to the agency, sonographers are at risk for developing work-related MSDs such as inflammation of the tendons (tendonitis), bursitis, muscle strains and pathology of the nerves in the upper extremities, neck and back, as they often stand in awkward postures when examining patients.

Other factors that, in combination and over time, increase a sonographer's chance of acquiring an MSD include:

  • Persistent and continual pressure for sustained periods of time during exams.
  • Poor workplace ergonomics in the design of equipment, chairs, tables and lighting.
  • Increased exam scheduling.
  • Sonographer height, age and gender.

Posture, Workspace Play Key Roles

In 1999, NIOSH conducted a case study at a hospital where sonographers reported neck, shoulder and arm pain while performing ultrasound. After interviewing several workers and assessing some of the job functions via video, NIOSH noted that awkward posturing as well as inadequate workspace for personnel and equipment were contributors for sonographers to acquire MSD.

NIOSH provides some of the following recommendations to prevent these work-related MSDs:

  • Provide adequate workspace for personnel, sonography equipment, the patient table and other equipment.
  • Use a posture-enhancing adjustable chair to accommodate the sonographer through adjustable footrests, seat heights and lock and release casters.
  • Vary postures throughout the day.
  • Schedule different types of exams for each sonographer in a workday to decrease strain on musculoskeletal tissues specific to one type of exam.

To view the full publication, go to

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