Buckley CE, Kavanagh DO, Traynor O, and Neary PC. Is the skill set obtained in surgical simulation transferable to the operating theatre?. Am J Surg.2014 Jan;207(1):146-57.Epub 2013 Oct 2.

PMID: 24238602


Simulated surgical training offers a safe and accessible way of learning surgical procedures outside the operating room. Training programs have been developed using simulated laboratories to train surgical trainees to proficiency outside the operating room. Despite the global enthusiasm among educators to enhance training through simulation-based learning, it remains to be elucidated whether the skill set obtained is transferrable to the operating room.

Using standardized search methods, the authors searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, PubMed, Embase, and Web-Based Knowledge, as well as the reference lists of relevant articles, and retrieved all published randomized controlled trials.

Sixteen randomized controlled trials involving 309 participants were identified to be suitable for qualitative analysis using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines. The mean Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials score was 16 (range, 12-22). The studies showed considerable clinical and methodologic diversity. Operative time improved consistently in all trials after training and was the only objective parameter measurable in the live setting. Studies that used the Objective Structured Assessment of Technical Skills as their primary outcome showed improved scores in 80% of trials, and studies that used performance indicators to assess participants all showed improved scores after simulation training in all of the trials, with 88% showing statistical significance.

The current literature consistently demonstrates the positive impact of simulation on operative time and predefined performance scores. However, these reproducible measures alone are insufficient to demonstrate transferability of skills from the laboratory to the operating room. The authors advocate a multimodal assessment, including metrics, the Objective Structured Assessment of Technical Skills, and critical step completion. This may provide a more complete assessment of operative performance. Only then can it be concluded that simulation skills are transferable to the live operative setting.