Status of Microsurgical Simulation Training in Plastic Surgery: A Survey of United States Program Directors

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Various simulation models for microsurgery have been developed to overcome the limitations of Halstedian training on real patients. We wanted to assess the status of microsurgery simulation in plastic surgery residency programs in the United States.


Data were analyzed from responses to a survey sent to all plastic surgery program directors in the United States, asking for type of simulation, quality of facilities, utilization by trainees, evaluation of trainee sessions, and perception of the relevance of simulation.


The survey response rate was 50%. Of all programs, 69% provide microsurgical simulation and 75% of these have a laboratory with microscope and 52% provide live animal models. Half share facilities with other departments. The quality of facilities is rated as good or great in 89%. Trainee utilization is once every 3 to 6 months in 82% of programs. Only in 11% is utilization monthly. Formal evaluation of simulation sessions is provided by 41% of programs. All program directors agree simulation is relevant to competence in microsurgery, 60% agree simulation should be mandatory, and 43% require trainees to complete a formal microsurgery course prior to live surgery.


There seems to be consensus that microsurgical simulation improves competence, and the majority of program directors agree it should be mandatory. Developing and implementing standardized simulation modules and assessment tools for trainees across the nation as part of a comprehensive competency-based training program for microsurgery is an important patient safety initiative that should be considered. Organizing with other departments to share facilities may improve their quality and hence utilization.

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