Background: The psychomotor challenges inherent in laparoscopic surgery are evident by the steep procedural "learning curves" documented throughout the literature. Few methods have been described to evaluate learning curves. The cumulative summation (CUSUM) method is a criterion-based evaluation of the learning process. The purpose of this study is to describe the CUSUM learning curves for a simple task for individuals and for a group of novice laparoscopists.
Methods: Sixteen medical students undertook four weekly sessions of 10 laparoscopic pegboard transfers in the MISTELS system. Their performance was scored and recorded for each trial. CUSUM learning curves were constructed based on the goal of achieving mean scores for senior, intermediate, or junior laparoscopists >or=95% of the time.
Results: Based on senior criteria, one student achieved the goal by the 40th peg transfer trial. Based on intermediate criteria, three students achieved the goal by their 40th trial (trials 21 and 36), and for junior criteria, 10 students achieved the acceptable success rate by their 40th trial (range, 26-40).
Conclusion: CUSUM analysis suggests criterion-based practice is useful for novice laparoscopists. It allows educators to track the progress of an individual toward target criteria for each MISTELS task, to more logically allocate time for training and set attainable goals, to objectively evaluate trainee acquisition of basic laparoscopic skills, and to identify trainees who need remediation.