The use and effectiveness of cadaveric workshops in higher surgical training: a systematic review

Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2011 Jul;93(5):347-52. doi: 10.1308/147870811X582954.


Introduction: The aim of this systematic review is to describe the use of cadavers in postgraduate surgical training, to determine the effect of cadaveric training sessions on surgical trainees' technical skills performance and to determine how trainees perceive the use of cadaveric workshops as a training tool.

Methods: An electronic literature search was performed, restricted to the English language, of MEDLINE(®), Embase™, the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL(®)), Centre for Agricultural Bioscience (CAB) Abstracts, the Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC™) database, the British Education Index, the Australian Education Index, the Cochrane Library and the Best Evidence in Medical Education website. Studies that were eligible for review included primary studies evaluating the use of human cadaveric surgical workshops for surgical skills training in postgraduate surgical trainees and those that included a formal assessment of skills performance or trainee satisfaction after the training session.

Results: Eight studies were identified as satisfying the eligibility criteria. One study showed a benefit from cadaveric workshop training with regard to the ability of trainees to perform relatively simple emergency procedures and one showed weak evidence of a benefit in performing more complex surgical procedures. Three studies showed that trainees valued the experience of cadaveric training.

Conclusions: Evidence for the effectiveness of cadaveric workshops in surgical training is currently limited. In particular, there is little research into how these workshops improve the performance of surgical trainees during subsequent live surgery. However, both trainees and assessors hold them in high regard and feel they help to improve operative skills. Further research into the role of cadaveric workshops is required.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Cadaver*
  • Clinical Competence / standards
  • Education, Medical, Graduate / methods*
  • General Surgery / education*
  • Humans
  • Perception
  • Teaching Materials