Objective: To review the feasibility of introducing advanced retroperitoneal renal laparoscopic surgery (RRLS) to a paediatric urology division, using the mentorship-training model. Although the scope of practice in paediatric urology is currently adapting endoscopic surgery into daily practice, most paediatric urologists in North America have had no formal training in laparoscopic surgery.
Methods: The study included four paediatric urologists with 3-25 years of practice; none had had any formal laparoscopic training or ever undertaken advanced RRLS. An experienced laparoscopic surgeon (the mentor) assisted the learning surgeons over a year. The initial phases of learning incorporated detailed lectures, visualization through videotapes and 'hands-on' demonstration by the expert in the technique of the standardized steps for each type of surgery. Over 10 months, ablative and reconstructive RRLS was undertaken jointly by the surgeons and the mentor. After this training the surgeons operated independently. To prevent lengthy operations, conversion to open surgery was planned if there was no significant progression after 2 h of laparoscopic surgery.
Results: Over the 10 months of mentorship, 36 RRLS procedures were undertaken in 31 patients (28 ablative and eight reconstructive). In all cases the mentored surgeons accomplished both retroperitoneal access and the creation of a working space within the cavity. The group was able to initiate ablative RRLS but the mentor undertook all the reconstructive procedures. After the mentorship period, over 10 months, 12 ablative procedures were undertaken independently, and five other attempts at RRLS failed.
Conclusion: Although the mentored approach can successfully and safely initiate advanced RRLS in a paediatric urology division, assessing the laparoscopic practice pattern after mentorship in the same group of trainees is warranted. Ablative RRLS is easier to learn for the experienced surgeon, but reconstructive procedures, e.g. pyeloplasty, require a high degree of skill in laparoscopic technique, which may only be acquired through formal training focusing primarily on suturing techniques.