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Better breathing can help ophthalmologists

Stig Severinsen, MSc Biology & PhD Medicine, Freediving World Champion and multiple Guinness World Record Holder, will deliver a talk on “Experienced Surgeons Under Stress” and explain how breath control can assist in stress management during cataract surgery.

Colin Kerr

Posted: Friday, February 9, 2018

Images courtesy of Casper Tybjerg

One of the highlights of this year’s Winter Meeting programme will be the lecture delivered by Stig Severinsen on Breatheology. The lecture, takes place tomorrow at 09.50 during the Young Ophthalmologists Symposium in the Amphitheatre.

Mr Severinsen, MSc Biology & PhD Medicine, Freediving World Champion and multiple Guinness World Record Holder, will deliver a talk on “Experienced Surgeons Under Stress” and explain how breath control can assist in stress management during cataract surgery.

“Nothing is more powerful than breath control,” Mr Severinsen told ET Today. “The way you breathe is the way you feel, so when you breathe too quickly it is not productive. It produces adrenaline, it increases the heart rate, it gives you less ability to co-ordinate your movements. With surgery, that is not what you want.”

Breatheology, he said, works on every dimension of the human breath by uniting ancient wisdom, modern science and peak performance in sports. It is based on philosophical principles, and driven by practice and experience.

 

Practical advice

During his lecture, Mr Severinsen will offer practical advice showing how ophthalmologists can use breath control to relieve stress during a complicated surgery. “I will demonstrate slow exhale, a little pause between inhale and exhale, so that everything becomes balanced. You can use breath control to become a better surgeon in general. You can be the best surgeon in the world, but if you don’t perform under high pressure, that doesn’t matter. In critical situations, you can get better outcomes with breathing exercises and breath control.”

Mr Severinsen said with breath control, ophthalmologists can also get mind control. “When you control your breathing, you control your mind and you don’t go into the negative spiral of panic. Panic leads to bad decisions and will not optimise your surgical precision.”

Mr Severinsen, whose brother Martin is an ophthalmologist in Denmark, has worked with surgeons in other fields, including respiratory surgeons. He agrees that working with medical specialists can be a challenge, but it is one that he is keen to embrace.

“During today’s lecture, we will be doing exercises together that ophthalmologists can bring home to their practices. My job is not to convince people, it is to make them feel the difference. When you lower your heart rate, you become calmer, you become suppler, you have better micro co-ordination in your movement so your surgery outcome will become better.”

He also said that if a surgeon is more relaxed during a procedure, this will also benefit the other members of the team. “Surgeons depend on their teams. The way you breathe and the way you communicate effects everything around you. If you are stressed, that stressful energy will resonate with the people around you and they will start to feel afraid and they may not ask the right questions. If you can take that extra breath you give room for questions and your team will become more confident in themselves.”