Video-based Learning in Surgery: Establishing Surgeon Engagement and Utilization of Variable-duration Videos

Ann Surg. 2020 Dec;272(6):1012-1019. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000003306.


Objective: To measure surgeon engagement and preferred video duration in a video-based learning program for nerve surgery.

Background: Educational videos can improve, standardize, and democratize best practices in surgery. To improve care internationally, educators must optimize their videos for learning. However, surgeon engagement and optimal video duration remain undefined.

Methods: A YouTube channel and a video-based learning website, PASSIO Education (, were examined from 2011 to 2017. We assessed views, geographic location, audience engagement (average percent of video watched), audience retention (percent of viewers at each timepoint), and usage of short (median 7.4, range 4.1-20.3 min) and long (median 17.2, range 6.1-47.7 min) video formats for the same procedures. A survey of PASSIO Education membership examined preferred video duration.

Results: Our 117 nerve surgery videos attained over 3 million views with 69% originating outside of the United States. While YouTube achieved more international exposure, PASSIO Education attained a greater mean engagement of 48.4% (14.3% absolute increase, P < 0.0001). Surveyed surgeons (n = 304) preferred longer videos when preparing for infrequent or difficult cases compared with routine cases (P < 0.0001). Engagement declined with video duration, but audience retention between short and long video formats was correlated (τB = 0.52, P < 0.0001).

Conclusions: For effective spread of best practices, we propose the joint use of YouTube for audience outreach and a surgeon-focused platform to maximize educational value. Optimal video duration is surgeon- and case-dependent and can be addressed through offering multiple video durations and interactive viewing options.

MeSH terms

  • Education, Medical, Graduate / methods*
  • Internet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Neurosurgery / education*
  • Time Factors
  • Video Recording / statistics & numerical data*
  • Work Engagement