Back to basics: use of fresh cadavers in vascular surgery training

Surgery. 2009 Oct;146(4):757-62; discussion 762-3. doi: 10.1016/j.surg.2009.06.048.


Background: Surgical trainees face many obstacles in learning basic surgical anatomy and technique. Pressure for quicker operative times, introduction of an 80-hour work week, rising numbers of endovascular procedures replacing open surgery, and the presence of fellowship training programs can limit resident exposure not only to surgical skills, but to attending faculty as well. Our goal was to design a vascular exposures course using fresh frozen cadavers to promote dissection and suturing skills, foster interaction with Vascular Surgery faculty, promote teamwork between residents, and measure the satisfaction of the residents with the course.

Methods: A pilot program was created with fresh frozen cadavers used to teach basic vascular surgical anatomy and operating skills to junior and mid-level general surgery residents. The course was organized by the Department of General Surgery and the Division of Vascular Surgery. Trainees completed a general questionnaire and evaluation at the completion of the course.

Results: Forty-five general surgery residents participated in 6 independent sessions offered over a 24-month period. Data from 2 questionnaires were entered into a spreadsheet and analyzed. Eighty-five percent of residents found the course met their expectations. Fresh frozen cadaver material was found optimal by all participants. Forty-four of 45 (97.8%) residents rated the educational value of the course with a perfect score and would recommend the course to others.

Conclusion: Fresh frozen cadavers provide an excellent opportunity to teach basic open vascular surgery principles while fostering interaction with faculty. Sharing cadavers between multiple disciplines can help with cost containment.

MeSH terms

  • Cadaver*
  • General Surgery / education*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency
  • Vascular Surgical Procedures / education*