Background: Skills decay without practice, but the degree is task specific. Some experts believe that it is essential to teach endoscopy longitudinally to build and maintain endoscopic skills.
Objective: To determine whether breaks in gastroenterology fellow endoscopy training are associated with a decrement in competency in independent intubation of the cecum.
Design: Observational cohort of colonoscopies performed by gastroenterology fellows.
Setting: Academic fellowship program from July 2010 to March 2012.
Subjects: Twenty-four fellows.
Main outcome measurements: The adjusted change in the slope of cumulative summation learning curves for cecal intubation after breaks in training and the slope at the end of the subsequent endoscopy rotation.
Results: A total of 6485 colonoscopies were performed by 24 fellows with 87 breaks in training. The average break was 6 weeks (range 2-36 weeks). Seventy-five percent of the breaks were 8 weeks or less. For every additional 4 weeks, the slope after the break worsened by 0.022 (P = .06, maximum possible change = -1.0 to +1.0). By the end of the subsequent rotation, there was no association between the slope of the learning curve and the length of the break (P = .68).
Limitations: This was an observational study of only 24 fellows with relatively few long breaks. Cecal intubation is only 1 component of overall competency in colonoscopy.
Conclusions: There may be a very small decrement in fellows' abilities to intubate the cecum after a break in endoscopy training. Because these changes are so small, teaching endoscopy in blocks is probably adequate, if necessary to balance other clinical and research experience. However, further research is needed to determine whether a longitudinal endoscopy experience is superior for attaining and maintaining competency, to evaluate the effects of breaks longer than 8 weeks, and to determine whether the effects of breaks depend on the previous volume of experience with colonoscopy.
Keywords: CUSUM; POW; cumulative summation; prisoner of war.
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