Background: Hand surgery is a unique subspecialty in which one can train after completion of either a plastic, orthopedic, or general surgical residency. This study compared hand surgery experience in residency among these different training pathways.
Methods: The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education case logs of graduating residents in general surgery, orthopedics, and plastic surgery were evaluated for years 2009 through 2018. Cases were grouped according to the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education-defined categories for hand surgery. Comparisons between specialties were made using a one-tail analysis of variance with a 95 percent confidence interval.
Results: There were 19,159 total residents studied: 11,189 general surgery, 7290 orthopedic, and 1040 plastic surgery. General surgery performed the fewest total hand surgeries per individual resident, while plastic surgery performed the most. Plastic surgery performed more operations than orthopedics in all categories studied including tendon, nerve, amputation, soft tissue, fracture, vascular cases, with p < 0.01 for each category.
Conclusions: There are significant differences in the preparation of resident trainees for entry into a hand surgery fellowship, and the lack of uniform exposure to hand surgery represents an opportunity for improvement. Fellowship directors and the tripartite specialty board should embrace the differences among general surgery, orthopedic, and plastic surgery graduates early in the fellowship year and address the expected differences. Trainees' education should be optimized on an individualized basis with targeted education, additional educational courses, and encouraging trainees to seek out clinical challenges to foster their continued professional growth.
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