Evaluation of Procedural Simulation as a Training and Assessment Tool in General Surgery-Simulating a Laparoscopic Appendectomy

J Surg Educ. 2017 Mar-Apr;74(2):243-250. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2016.08.006. Epub 2016 Oct 4.


Background: Laparoscopic appendectomy is a commonly performed surgical procedure, but few training models have been described for it. We examined a virtual reality module for practising a laparoscopic appendectomy.

Methods: A prospective cohort study with the following 3 groups of surgeons (n = 45): novices (0 procedures), intermediates (10-50 procedures), and experienced (>100 procedures). After being introduced to the simulator and 1 familiarization attempt on the procedural module, the participants practiced the module 20 times. Movements, task time, and procedure-specific parameters were compared over time.

Results: The time and movement parameters were significantly different during the first attempt, and more experienced surgeons used fewer movements and less time than novices (p < 0.01), although only 2 parameters were significantly different between novices and intermediates. All 3 groups improved significantly over 20 attempts (p < 0.0001). The intraclass correlation coefficient varied between 0.55 and 0.68 and did not differ significantly between the 3 groups (p > 0.05). When comparing novices with experienced surgeons, novices had a higher risk of burn damage to cecum (odds ratio [OR] = 3.0 [95% CI: 1.3; 7.0] p = 0.03), pressure damage to appendix (OR = 3.1 [95% CI: 2.0; 4.9] p < 0.0001), and grasping of the appendix (OR = 2.9 [95% CI: 1.8; 4.7] p < 0.0001). The risk of causing a perforation was not significantly different among the different experience levels (OR = 1.9 [95% CI: 0.9; 3.8] p = 0.14). Only 3 out of 5 error parameters differed significantly when comparing novices and experienced surgeons. Similarly, when comparing intermediates and novices, it was only 2 of the parameters that differed.

Discussion: The simulator module for practising laparoscopic appendectomy may be useful as a training tool, but further development is required before it can be used for assessment purposes. Procedural simulation may demonstrate more variation for movement parameters, and future research should focus on developing better procedure-specific parameters.

Keywords: Practice-Based Learning and Improvement; appendectomy; laparoscopy; procedural training; simulation; virtual reality.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Appendectomy / education*
  • Appendectomy / methods
  • Clinical Competence
  • Cohort Studies
  • Competency-Based Education
  • Female
  • General Surgery / education*
  • Humans
  • Laparoscopy / economics*
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Simulation Training / methods*
  • User-Computer Interface*