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Anne-Katrin Hickmann, Andrea Ferrari, Oliver Bozinov, Martin N. Stienen, and Carsten Ostendorp

OBJECTIVE

Restrictions on working time and healthcare expenditures, as well as increasing subspecialization with caseload requirements per surgeon and increased quality-of-care expectations, provide limited opportunities for surgical residents to be trained in the operating room. Yet, surgical training requires goal-oriented and focused practice. As a result, training simulators are increasingly utilized. The authors designed a two-step blended course consisting of a personalized adaptive electronic learning (e-learning) module followed by simulator training. This paper reports on course development and the evaluation by the first participants.

METHODS

Adaptive e-learning was curated by learning engineers based on theoretical information provided by clinicians (subject matter experts). A lumbar spine model for image-guided spinal injections was used for the simulator training. Residents were assigned to the e-learning module first; after its completion, they participated in the simulator training. Performance data were recorded for each participant’s e-learning module, which was necessary to personalize the learning experience to each individual’s knowledge and needs. Simulator training was organized in small groups with a 1-to-4 instructor-to-participant ratio. Structured assessments were undertaken, adapted from the Student Evaluation of Educational Quality.

RESULTS

The adaptive e-learning module was curated, reviewed, and approved within 10 weeks. Eight participants have taken the course to date. The overall rating of the course is very good (4.8/5). Adaptive e-learning is well received compared with other e-learning types (8/10), but scores lower regarding usefulness, efficiency, and fun compared with the simulator training, despite improved conscious competency (32.6% ± 15.1%) and decreased subconscious incompetency (22.8% ± 10.2%). The subjective skill level improved by 20%. Asked about the estimated impact of the course, participants indicated that they had either learned something new that they plan to use in their practice (71.4%) or felt reassured in their practice (28.6%).

CONCLUSIONS

The development of a blended training course combining adaptive e-learning and simulator training in a rapid manner is feasible and leads to improved skills. Simulator training is rated more valuable by surgical trainees than theoretical e-learning; the impact of this type of training on patient care needs to be further investigated.

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Francesco Peia, Marco Gessi, Paola Collini, Andrea Ferrari, Alessandra Erbetta, and Laura G. Valentini

Primitive intraneural synovial sarcomas are rare in children. The authors report the case of a 7-year-old girl affected by intraneural synovial sarcoma of a lumbar nerve root, the first such lesion in this location described in a child. The lesion mimicked a schwannoma clinically and radiologically. There was long-lasting leg pain in a radicular distribution, and a well-demarcated intraneural tumor was seen on MRI. On this basis, the first resection was conservative. However, histological examination documented a classic biphasic synovial sarcoma, which was confirmed by immunohistochemistry. After radical resection and adjuvant treatment, complete disease control was achieved and verified at 5-year follow-up. This case strongly suggests that early diagnosis and a multidisciplinary approach to this unusual spinal lesion are essential to achieving a better prognosis.

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Nicola Boari, Filippo Gagliardi, Andrea Cavalli, Marco Gemma, Luca Ferrari, Paola Riva, and Pietro Mortini

OBJECTIVE

Skull base chordomas (SBCs) are rare dysembryogenetic invasive tumors with a variable tendency for recurrence. According to previous studies, the recurrence rate seems to be affected by both clinical variables and tumor biological features. The authors present the results of treatment of SBCs in a large series of patients and investigate the role of 1p36 chromosomal region loss of heterozygosity (LOH) as a prognostic factor.

METHODS

Between 1990 and 2011, 45 patients were treated for SBCs. The mean follow-up was 76 months (range 1–240 months). An LOH analysis was performed in 27 cases. Survival analysis was performed to determine clinical and biological parameters correlating with clinical outcome.

RESULTS

The 5- and 10-year overall survival rates were 67% and 57%, respectively. Five- and 10-year progression-free survival rates were 58% and 44%, respectively. Multivariate analysis showed that extent of resection, adjuvant radiation therapy, and absence of rhinopharynx invasion were positive independent predictors of overall survival. The latter 2 variables and a younger patient age were positive independent predictors of progression-free survival. Twenty-one patients showed 1p36 LOH. All events of recurrence and death clustered in the group of patients with 1p36 LOH; however, this biological marker was not statistically significant on multivariate analysis.

CONCLUSIONS

Resection is the treatment of choice in primary and recurrent SBC. Patient age, rhinopharynx invasion at diagnosis, extent of tumor removal, and postoperative radiation therapy influence SBC prognosis. Genetic analysis, even while showing interesting results, did not reveal 1p36 LOH as an independent predictor of clinical outcome.