Trainee Involvement in Ivor Lewis Esophagectomy Does Not Negatively Impact Outcomes

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The aim of the present study was to determine whether trainee involvement in esophageal cancer resection is associated with adverse patient outcomes.


Operative experience for surgical trainees is under threat. A number of factors have been implicated in this leading to fewer hours for training. Esophagogastric cancer training is particularly vulnerable due to the publication of individual surgeon results and a perception that dual consultant operating improves patient outcomes. Resectional surgery is increasingly viewed as a subspeciality to be developed after completion of the normal training pathway.


Data from a prospectively maintained database of consecutive patients undergoing trans-thoracic esophagectomy for potentially curable carcinoma of the esophagus or gastroesophageal junction were reviewed. Patients were divided into 4 cohorts, according to whether a consultant or trainee was the primary surgeon in either the abdominal or thoracic phase. Outcomes including operative time, lymph node yield, blood loss, complications graded by Accordion score, and mortality were recorded.


A total of 323 patients underwent esophagectomy during 4 years. The overall in-hospital mortality rate was 1.5%. At least 1 phase of the surgery was performed by a trainee in 75% of cases. There was no significant difference in baseline demographics of age, stage, neoadjuvant treatment, and histology between cohorts. There was no significant difference in blood loss (P = 0.8), lymph node yield (P = 0.26), length of stay (P = 0.24), mortality, and complication rate according to Accordion scores (P = 0.21) between cohorts. Chest operating time was a median 25 minutes shorter when performed by a consultant (P < 0.001).


These findings demonstrate that patient outcomes are not compromised by supervised trainee involvement in transthoracic esophagectomy. Training is an essential role of all surgical units and training data should be more widely reported especially in areas of high-risk surgery.

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