Introduction: Single-incision laparoscopic cholecystectomy (SILC) may lead to higher patient satisfaction; however, SILC may expose the surgeon to increased workload. The goal of this study was to compare surgeon stress and workload between SILC and conventional laparoscopic cholecystectomy (CLC). Methods: During a double-blind randomized controlled trial comparing patient outcomes for SILC versus CLC (NCT0148943), surgeon workload was assessed by four measures: surgery task load index questionnaire (Surg-TLX), maximum heart rate, salivary cortisol level, and instruments usability survey. The maximum heart rate and salivary cortisol levels were sampled from the surgeon before the random assignment of the surgical procedure, intraoperatively after the cystic duct was clipped, and at skin closure. After each procedure, the surgeon completed the Surg-TLX and an instrument usability survey. Student’s t tests, Wilcoxon rank sum test, and Kruskal–Wallis nonparametric ANOVAs on the dependent variables by the technique (SILC vs. CLC) were performed with α = 0.05. Results: Twenty-three SILC and 25 CLC procedures were included in the intent-to-treat analysis. No significant differences were observed between SILC and CLC for patient demographics and procedure duration. SILC had significantly higher post-surgery surgeon maximum heart rates than CLC (p < 0.05). SILC also had significantly higher mean change in the maximum heart rate between during and post-procedure (p < 0.05) than CLC. Salivary cortisol level was significantly higher during SILC than CLC (p < 0.01). Awkward manipulation of the instruments and limited fine motions were reported significantly more frequently with SILC than CLC (p < 0.01). In the surgeon-reported Surg-TLX, subscale of physical demand was significantly more demanding for SILC than CLC (p < 0.05). Conclusions: Surgeon heart rate, salivary cortisol level, instrument usability, and Surg-TLX ratings indicate that SILC is significantly more stressful and physically demanding than the CLC. Surgeon stress and workload may impact patients’ outcomes; thus, ergonomic improvement on SILC is necessary.
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