Internal carotid artery injury (ICAI) is a rare, life-threatening complication of endoscopic endonasal approaches that will be encountered by most skull base neurosurgeons and otolaryngologists. Rates of surgical proficiency for managing ICAI are not known, and the role of simulation to improve performance has not been studied on a nationwide scale.
Attending and resident neurosurgery and otorhinolaryngology surgeons (n = 177) were recruited from multicenter regional and national training courses to assess training outcomes and validity at scale of a prospective educational intervention to improve surgeon technical skills using a previously validated, perfused human cadaveric simulator. Participants attempted an initial trial (T1) of simulated ICAI control using their preferred technique. An educational intervention including personalized instruction was performed. Participants attempted a second trial (T2). Task success (dichotomous), time to hemostasis (TTH), estimated blood loss (EBL), and surgeon heart rate were measured.
Participant rating scales confirmed that the simulation retained face and construct validity across eight instructional settings. Trial success (ICAI control) improved from 56% in T1 to 90% in T2 (p < 0.0001). EBL and TTH decreased by 37% and 38%, respectively (p < 0.0001). Postintervention resident surgeon performance (TTH, EBL, and success rate) was superior to preintervention attending surgeon performance. The most improved quartile of participants achieved 62% improvement in TTH and 73% improvement in EBL, with trial success improvement from 25.6% in T1 to 100% in T2 (p < 0.0001). Baseline surgeon confidence was uncorrelated with T1 success, while posttraining confidence correlated with T2 success. Tachycardia was measured in 57% of surgeon participants, but was attenuated during T2, consistent with development of resiliency.
Prior to training, many attending and most resident surgeons could not manage the rare, life-threatening intraoperative complication of ICAI. A simulated educational intervention significantly improved surgeon performance and remained valid when deployed at scale. Simulation also promoted the development of favorable cognitive skills (accurate perception of skill and resiliency). Rare, life-threatening intraoperative complications may be optimal targets for educational interventions using surgical simulation.