Open surgical simulation in residency training: a review of its status and a case for its incorporation

J Surg Educ. 2013 Jan-Feb;70(1):129-37. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2012.08.007.


Background: With the increase in minimally invasive approaches to surgical disease and nonoperative management for solid organ injury, the open operative experience of current surgical residents has decreased significantly. This deficit poses a potentially adverse impact on both surgical training and surgical care. Simulation technology, with the potential to foster the development of technical skills in a safe, nonclinical environment, could be used to remedy this problem. In this study, we systematically review the current status of simulation technology in the training of open surgical skills with the aim of clarifying its role and promise in the education of surgical residents.

Methods: A systematic search of the PubMed database was performed with keywords: "surgical simulation," "skill," "simulat," "surgery," "surgery training," "validity," "surgical trainer," "technical skill," "surgery teach," "skill assessment," and "operative skill." The retrieved studies were screened, and additional studies identified by a manual search of the reference lists of included studies.

Results: Thirty-one studies were identified. Most studies used low fidelity bench models designed to train junior residents in more basic surgical skills. Six studies used complex open models to train senior residents in more advanced surgical techniques. "Boot camp" and workshops have been used by some authors for short periods of intense training in a specialized area, with good results.

Conclusions: Despite the increasing use of simulation in the technical training of surgical residents, few studies have focused on the use of simulation in the training of open surgical skills. This is particularly true with regard to skills required to competently perform technically challenging open maneuvers under urgent, life-threatening circumstances. In an era marked by a decline in open operative experience, there is a need for simulation-based studies that not only promote and evaluate the acquisition of such less commonly performed techniques but also determine the efficacy with which they can be transferred from a simulated environment to a patient in an operating room.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cadaver
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Education, Medical, Graduate*
  • Educational Measurement
  • General Surgery / education*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Models, Anatomic
  • Models, Animal