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Surgical activity is probably the most important component of surgical training. During the first year of surgical residency, there is an early opportunity for the development of surgical skills, before disparities between the skill sets of residents increase in future years. It is likely that surgical skill is related to operative volumes. There are no published guidelines that quantify the number of surgical cases required to achieve surgical competency. The aim of this study was to describe the current trends in surgical activity in a recent cohort of first-year Canadian neurosurgical trainees.
This study utilized retrospective database review and survey methodology to describe the current state of surgical training for first-year neurosurgical trainees. A committee of five residents designed this survey in an effort to capture factors that may influence the operative activity of trainees.
Nine out of a cohort of 20 first-year Canadian neurosurgical trainees that began training in July of 2008 participated in the study. The median number of cases completed by a resident during the initial three month neurosurgical rotation was 66, within which the trainee was identified as the primary surgeon in 12 cases. Intracranial hemorrhage and cerebrospinal fluid diversion procedures were the most common operations to have the trainee as primary surgeon.
Based on this pilot study, it appears that the operative activity of Canadian first-year residents is at least equivalent to the residents of other studied training systems with respect to volume and diversity of surgical activity.
Specialization is generally independently associated with improved outcomes for most types of surgery. This is the first study comparing the immediate success of outpatient lumbar microdiscectomy with respect to acute complication and conversion to inpatient rate. Long term pain relief is not examined in this study.
Two separate prospective databases (one belonging to a neurosurgeon and brain tumor specialist, not specializing in spine (NS) and one belonging to four spine surgeons (SS)) were retrospectively reviewed. All acute complications as well as admission data of patients scheduled for outpatient lumbar microdiscectomy were extracted.
In total, 269 patients were in the NS group and 137 patients were in the SS group. The NS group averaged 24 cases per year while the SS group averaged 50 cases per year. Chi-square tests revealed no difference in acute complication rate [NS(6.7%), SS(7.3%)] (p>0.5) and admission rate [NS(4.1%), SS(5.8%)] (p=0.4) while the SS group had a significantly higher proportion of patients undergoing repeat microdiscectomy [NS(4.1%), SS(37.2%)] (p<0.0001). Excluding revision operations, there was no statistically significant difference in acute complication [NS(5.4%), SS(1.2%)] (p=0.09) and conversion to inpatient [NS(4.3%), SS(4.6%)] (p>0.5) rate. The combined acute complication and conversion to inpatient rate was 6.9% and 4.7% respectively.
Based on this limited study, outpatient lumbar microdiscectomy can be apparently performed safely with similar immediate complication rates by both non-spine specialized neurosurgeons and spine surgeons, even though the trend favored the latter group for both outcome measures.