Background: Two of us (B.C.S. and C.W.D.) began performing laparoscopic fundoplication in 1992. We have always designated the resident as the operating surgeon.
Objective: To determine the time necessary for both experienced surgeons and residents to become proficient in laparoscopic fundoplication.
Design: The medical records of 241 consecutive patients undergoing laparoscopic fundoplication were reviewed. This period started with the implementation of the procedure in January 1992 and ended in March 1998. For 3 consecutive years, residents were given a questionnaire regarding their confidence in performing laparoscopic fundoplication.
Results: Laparoscopic fundoplication was attempted in 241 patients and completed in 203 patients (84%). Comparing the first 25 attempted laparoscopic fundoplications with the second 25, there were 14 conversions (56%) vs 4 conversions (16%) (P<.01). Average operative times decreased from 236 to 199 minutes (P<.05), and the intraoperative complication rates were 5 (20%) and 1 (4%), respectively. Subsequently, the conversion rate stabilized at 2%. The operative time continued to decline to an average of 99 minutes for the last 25 laparoscopies. Senior residents and recent graduates returning the questionnaire performed an average of 112 laparoscopic procedures, including 15.7 laparoscopic fundoplications. They felt comfortable with the procedure after performing an average of 10.6 operations.
Conclusions: The learning curve is very steep for the first 25 laparoscopic fundoplications for experienced surgeons. However, improvements, as judged by decreases in operative time, conversion rate, and intraoperative complications, continue to occur after 100 cases. Under supervision, residents can become comfortable with this procedure after about 10 to 15 procedures.