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Faizal A. Haji, Adam Dubrowski, James Drake, and Sandrine de Ribaupierre

Object

In recent years, dramatic changes in surgical education have increased interest in simulation-based training for complex surgical skills. This is particularly true for endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV), given the potential for serious intraoperative errors arising from surgical inexperience. However, prior to simulator development, a thorough assessment of training needs is essential to ensure development of educationally relevant platforms. The purpose of this study was to conduct a national needs assessment addressing specific goals of instruction, to guide development of simulation platforms, training curricula, and assessment metrics for ETV.

Methods

Canadian neurosurgeons performing ETV were invited to participate in a structured online questionnaire regarding the procedural steps for ETV, the frequency and significance of intraoperative errors committed while learning the technique, and simulation training modules of greatest potential educational benefit. Descriptive data analysis was completed for both quantitative and qualitative responses.

Results

Thirty-two (55.2%) of 58 surgeons completed the survey. All believed that virtual reality simulation training for ETV would be a valuable addition to clinical training. Selection of ventriculostomy site, navigation within the ventricles, and performance of the ventriculostomy ranked as the most important steps to simulate. Technically inadequate ventriculostomy and inappropriate fenestration site selection were ranked as the most frequent/significant errors. A standard ETV module was thought to be most beneficial for resident training.

Conclusions

To inform the development of a simulation-based training program for ETV, the authors have conducted a national needs assessment. The results provide valuable insight to inform key design elements necessary to construct an educationally relevant device and educational program.

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Vivek P. Bodani, Gerben E. Breimer, Faizal A. Haji, Thomas Looi, and James M. Drake

OBJECTIVE

Endoscopic resection of third-ventricle colloid cysts is technically challenging due to the limited dexterity and visualization provided by neuroendoscopic instruments. Extensive training and experience are required to master the learning curve. To improve the education of neurosurgical trainees in this procedure, a synthetic surgical simulator was developed and its realism, procedural content, and utility as a training instrument were evaluated.

METHODS

The simulator was developed based on the neuroimaging (axial noncontrast CT and T1-weighted gadolinium-enhanced MRI) of an 8-year-old patient with a colloid cyst and hydrocephalus. Image segmentation, computer-aided design, rapid prototyping (3D printing), and silicone molding techniques were used to produce models of the skull, brain, ventricles, and colloid cyst. The cyst was filled with a viscous fluid and secured to the roof of the third ventricle. The choroid plexus and intraventricular veins were also included. Twenty-four neurosurgical trainees performed a simulated colloid cyst resection using a 30° angled endoscope, neuroendoscopic instruments, and image guidance. Using a 19-item feedback survey (5-point Likert scales), participants evaluated the simulator across 5 domains: anatomy, instrument handling, procedural content, perceived realism, and confidence and comfort level.

RESULTS

Participants found the simulator’s anatomy to be highly realistic (mean 4.34 ± 0.63 [SD]) and appreciated the use of actual instruments (mean 4.38 ± 0.58). The procedural content was also rated highly (mean 4.28 ± 0.77); however, the perceived realism was rated slightly lower (mean 4.08 ± 0.63). Participants reported greater confidence in their ability to perform an endoscopic colloid cyst resection after using the simulator (mean 4.45 ± 0.68). Twenty-three participants (95.8%) indicated that they would use the simulator for additional training. Recommendations were made to develop complex case scenarios for experienced trainees (normal-sized ventricles, choroid plexus adherent to cyst wall, bleeding scenarios) and incorporate advanced instrumentation such as side-cutting aspiration devices.

CONCLUSIONS

A patient-specific synthetic surgical simulator for training residents and fellows in endoscopic colloid cyst resection was successfully developed. The simulator’s anatomy, instrument handling, and procedural content were found to be realistic. The simulator may serve as a valuable educational tool to learn the critical steps of endoscopic colloid cyst resection, develop a detailed understanding of intraventricular anatomy, and gain proficiency with bimanual neuroendoscopic techniques.

Free access

Jacob R. Lepard, S. Hassan A. Akbari, Faizal Haji, Matthew C. Davis, William Harkness, and James M. Johnston

OBJECTIVE

Despite general enthusiasm for international collaboration within the organized neurosurgical community, establishing international partnerships remains challenging. The current study analyzes the initial experience of the InterSurgeon website in partnering surgeons from across the world to increase surgical collaboration.

METHODS

One year after the launch of the InterSurgeon website, data were collected to quantify the number of website visits, average session duration, total numbers of matches, and number of offers and requests added to the website each month. Additionally, a 15-question survey was designed and distributed to all registered members of the website.

RESULTS

There are currently 321 surgeon and institutional members of InterSurgeon representing 69 different countries and all global regions. At the time of the survey there were 277 members, of whom 76 responded to the survey, yielding a response rate of 27.4% (76/277). Twenty-five participants (32.9%) confirmed having either received a match email (12/76, 15.8%) or initiated contact with another user via the website (13/76, 17.1%). As expected, the majority of the collaborations were either between a high-income country (HIC) and a low-income country (LIC) (5/18, 27.8%) or between an HIC and a middle-income country (MIC) (9/18, 50%). Interestingly, there were 2 MIC-to-MIC collaborations (2/18, 11.1%) as well as 1 MIC-to-LIC (1/18, 5.6%) and 1 LIC-to-LIC partnership. At the time of response, 6 (33.3%) of the matches had at least resulted in initial contact via email or telephone. One of the partnerships had involved face-to-face interaction via video conference. A total of 4 respondents had traveled internationally to visit their partner’s institution.

CONCLUSIONS

Within its first year of launch, the InterSurgeon membership has grown significantly. The partnerships that have already been formed involve not only international visits between HICs and low- to middle-income countries (LMICs), but also telecollaboration and inter-LMIC connections that allow for greater exchange of knowledge and expertise. As membership and site features grow to include other surgical and anesthesia specialties, membership growth and utilization is expected to increase rapidly over time according to social network dynamics.

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Kyle W. Eastwood, Vivek P. Bodani, Faizal A. Haji, Thomas Looi, Hani E. Naguib, and James M. Drake

OBJECTIVE

Endoscope-assisted repair of craniosynostosis is a safe and efficacious alternative to open techniques. However, this procedure is challenging to learn, and there is significant variation in both its execution and outcomes. Surgical simulators may allow trainees to learn and practice this procedure prior to operating on an actual patient. The purpose of this study was to develop a realistic, relatively inexpensive simulator for endoscope-assisted repair of metopic and sagittal craniosynostosis and to evaluate the models’ fidelity and teaching content.

METHODS

Two separate, 3D-printed, plastic powder–based replica skulls exhibiting metopic (age 1 month) and sagittal (age 2 months) craniosynostosis were developed. These models were made into consumable skull “cartridges” that insert into a reusable base resembling an infant’s head. Each cartridge consists of a multilayer scalp (skin, subcutaneous fat, galea, and periosteum); cranial bones with accurate landmarks; and the dura mater. Data related to model construction, use, and cost were collected. Eleven novice surgeons (residents), 9 experienced surgeons (fellows), and 5 expert surgeons (attendings) performed a simulated metopic and sagittal craniosynostosis repair using a neuroendoscope, high-speed drill, rongeurs, lighted retractors, and suction/irrigation. All participants completed a 13-item questionnaire (using 5-point Likert scales) to rate the realism and utility of the models for teaching endoscope-assisted strip suturectomy.

RESULTS

The simulators are compact, robust, and relatively inexpensive. They can be rapidly reset for repeated use and contain a minimal amount of consumable material while providing a realistic simulation experience. More than 80% of participants agreed or strongly agreed that the models’ anatomical features, including surface anatomy, subgaleal and subperiosteal tissue planes, anterior fontanelle, and epidural spaces, were realistic and contained appropriate detail. More than 90% of participants indicated that handling the endoscope and the instruments was realistic, and also that the steps required to perform the procedure were representative of the steps required in real life.

CONCLUSIONS

Both the metopic and sagittal craniosynostosis simulators were developed using low-cost methods and were successfully designed to be reusable. The simulators were found to realistically represent the surgical procedure and can be used to develop the technical skills required for performing an endoscope-assisted craniosynostosis repair.

Free access

Brendan Santyr, Mohamad Abbass, Alan Chalil, Amirti Vivekanandan, Daria Krivosheya, Lynn M. Denning, Thomas K. Mattingly, Faizal A. Haji, and Stephen P. Lownie

OBJECTIVE

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.

METHODS

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.

RESULTS

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.

CONCLUSIONS

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.