A systematic review of simulation in open abdominal aortic aneurysm repair

J Vasc Surg. 2020 May;71(5):1802-1808.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jvs.2019.10.009. Epub 2019 Dec 9.


Objective: Concerns about the long-term durability of endovascular aortic aneurysm repair and the requirement for explantation of stents in the case of infection demonstrate the continued need for open abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) repair. However, with the increased complexity and decreasing volume of open cases performed, maintenance of skills and training of younger surgeons are challenging. The aim of this review was to identify and to examine studies pertaining to open AAA simulation, with focus on methods and outcomes.

Methods: We performed a systematic review of the literature to identify primary research pertaining to open AAA repair through the use of simulators. The primary outcome was to identify predominant modes of simulator design and validated assessment tools that could demonstrate improvement in trainee skills. Secondary outcomes included identifying participant numbers needed to power studies and whether tools not validated externally contributed to the studies.

Results: There were 309 unique papers identified, from which five papers met the inclusion criteria. The selected papers used a combination of synthetic (commercial and homemade) and cadaveric simulators. A variety of validated and nonvalidated assessment metrics were used, including Objective Structured Assessment of Technical Skills, global rating scales, and realism surveys. Three of the five papers used blinding as part of their assessments. Mean participant numbers were 30.8 ± 25.7 and with the exception of one paper consisted entirely of surgical trainees in dedicated general or vascular surgery training programs.

Conclusions: Several options are currently available for open AAA simulation, all of which demonstrate improved scoring metrics after simulator use. Validated scoring systems, the Objective Structured Assessment of Technical Skills in particular, were most frequently used to deliver objective results. Whereas junior trainees derive the most benefit, senior trainees also showed significant improvements, demonstrating that simulation benefits all levels of surgical trainees. Low numbers of participants were sufficient to achieve statistical benefit within individual studies.

Keywords: AAA; Abdominal aortic aneurysm; Education; Simulation; Surgical training.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aortic Aneurysm, Abdominal / surgery*
  • Clinical Competence
  • Humans
  • Simulation Training*
  • Stents
  • Vascular Surgical Procedures / education*