Telementoring of Open and Laparoscopic Knot Tying and Suturing Is Possible: A Randomized Controlled Study

Eur J Pediatr Surg. 2022 Jan 13. doi: 10.1055/s-0041-1741542. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Aim: Several motor learning models have been used to teach highly complex procedural skills in medical education. The aim of this randomized controlled trial was to assess the efficiency of telementoring of open and laparoscopic suturing of medical students compared to conventional in-person teaching and training.

Methods: After randomization, 23 medical students were assigned to either the telementoring or the in-person training group. Both groups were taught by surgically trained residence with a student-teacher ratio of 1:1 (teacher-student). Open suturing was assessed in a model of congenital diaphragmatic hernia and laparoscopic suturing in a model of bowel anastomosis. All subjects were trained according to the spaced learning concept for 3 hours. Primary end points were time, knot quality, precision, knot strength, and overall knotting performance/competency. Furthermore, we utilized the Surgery Task Load Index to evaluate the cognitive load of both teaching techniques. Students' subjective progress regarding skill acquisitions and acceptance of telementoring was assessed using a nine-item questionnaire.

Results: All 23 trainees significantly improved after training in all knot attributes. More than 90% of all subjects reached proficiency in both groups. In-person training and telementoring were similarly practical, and no significant differences regarding speed, knot quality, precision, knot stability, and procedure performance/competency were found. Students perceived no difference in acquisition of factual or applicational knowledge between the two groups. General acceptance of telementoring was moderate in both groups before training, but increased during training in students actually assigned to this group, in comparison to students assigned to conventional teaching.

Conclusion: The current study shows that telementoring of open and laparoscopic suturing is an ideal answer to the current coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, ensuring continuous training. On-site training and telementoring are similarly effective, leading to substantial improvement in proficiency in intracorporeal suturing and knot tying. Likewise, students' subjective progress regarding skill acquisitions and cognitive load does not differ between teaching methods. Skepticism toward telementoring decreases after exposure to this learning method. Given our results, telementoring should be considered a highly effective and resource-saving educational approach even after the current pandemic.