Objective: To compare the effectiveness and cost of 2 ex vivo training curricula for laparoscopic suturing.
Background: Although simulators have been developed to teach laparoscopic suturing, a barrier to their wide implementation in training programs is a lack of knowledge regarding their relative training benefit and their associated cost.
Method: This prospective single-blinded randomized trial allocated 24 surgical residents to train to proficiency using either a virtual reality (VR) simulator or box trainer. All residents then placed intracorporeal laparoscopic stitches during a Nissen fundoplication on a patient. The operating room (OR) cases were video-recorded and technical proficiency was assessed using 2 validated tools. OR performance of both groups was compared to that of conventionally trained residents and to fellowship-trained surgeons. A cost analysis of box training, VR training, and conventional residency training across Canadian surgical programs was performed.
Results: After ex vivo training, no significant differences in laparoscopic suturing in the OR were found between the 2 groups with respect to time (P = 0.74)—global rating score (P = 0.65) or checklist score (P = 0.97). It took conventionally trained residents 6 practice attempts in the OR to achieve the technical proficiency of the ex vivo trained groups (P = 0.83). VR training was more efficient than box training (transfer effectiveness ratio of 2.31 vs 1.13). The annual cost of training 5 residents on the FLS trainer box was $11,975.00, on the VR simulator was $77,500.00, and conventional residency training was $17,380.00. Over 5 years, box training was the most cost-effective option for all programs, and VR training was more cost-effective for programs with more 10 residents.
Conclusions: Training on either a VR simulator or on a box trainer significantly decreased the learning curve necessary to learn laparoscopic suturing. VR training, however, is the more efficient training modality, whereas box training the more cost-effective option.