Objective: The purpose of this study was to test the effects of varying the amount of physical practice and mental imagery rehearsal on learning basic surgical procedures.
Study design: Using a sample of 65 second-year medical students, 3 randomized groups received either: (1) 3 sessions of physical practice on suturing a pig's foot; (2) 2 sessions of physical practice and 1 session of mental imagery rehearsal; or (3) 1 session of physical practice and 2 sessions of imagery rehearsal. All participants then performed a surgery on a live rabbit in the operating theater of a veterinary college under approved conditions. Analysis of variance was applied to pre- and post-treatment ratings of surgical performance.
Results: Physical practice followed by mental imagery rehearsal was statistically equal to additional physical practice.
Conclusion: Initial physical practice followed by mental imagery rehearsal may be a cost-effective method of training medical students in learning basic surgical skills.