Simulation is increasingly recognized as an important supplement to operative training. The live rat femoral artery model is a well-established model for microsurgical skills simulation. In this study, the authors present an 11-year experience incorporating a comprehensive, longitudinal microsurgical training curriculum into a Canadian neurosurgery program. The first goal was to evaluate training effectiveness, using a well-studied rating scale with strong validity. The second goal was to assess the impact of the curriculum on objective measures of subsequent operating room performance during postgraduate year (PGY)–5 and PGY-6 training.
PGY-2 neurosurgery residents completed a 1-year curriculum spanning 17 training sessions divided into 5 modules of increasing fidelity. Both perfused duck wing and live rat vessel training models were used. Three modules comprised live microvascular anastomosis. Trainee performance was video recorded and blindly graded using the Objective Structured Assessment of Technical Skills Global Rating Scale. Eleven participants who completed the training curriculum and 3 subjects who had not participated had their subsequent operative performances evaluated when they were at the PGY-5 and PGY-6 levels.
Eighteen participants completed 106 microvascular anastomoses during the study. There was significant improvement in 6 measurable skills during the curriculum. The mean overall score was significantly higher on the fifth attempt compared with the first attempt for all 3 live anastomotic modules (p < 0.001). Each module had a different improvement profile across the skills assessed. Those who completed the microvascular skills curriculum demonstrated a greater number of independent evaluations during superficial surgical exposure, deep exposure, and primary maneuvers at the PGY-5 and PGY-6 levels.
High-fidelity microsurgical simulation training leads to significant improvement in microneurosurgical skills. Transfer of acquired skills to the operative environment and durability for at least 3 to 4 years show encouraging preliminary results and are subject to ongoing investigation.