To describe secular trends in operative experience for surgical trainees across an extended period using the most comprehensive data available, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) case logs.
Some experts have expressed concern that current trainees are inadequately prepared for independent practice. One frequently mentioned factor is whether duty hours’ restrictions
(DHR) implemented in 2003 and 2004 contributed by reducing time spent in the operating room.
A dataset was generated from annual ACGME reports. Operative volume
for total major cases (TMC), defined categories, and four index laparoscopic procedures was evaluated.
TMC dropped after implementation of DHR but rebounded after a transition period (949 vs 946 cases, P
= nonsignificance). Abdominal cases increased from 22% of overall cases to 31%. Alimentary cases increased from 21% to 26%. Trauma and vascular surgery substantially decreased. For trauma, this drop took place well before DHR. The decrease in vascular surgery also began before DHR but continued afterward as well: 148 cases/resident in the late 1990s to 107 currently.
Although total operative volume
rebounded after implementation of DHR, diversity of operative experienced narrowed. The combined increase in alimentary and abdominal cases is nearly 13%, over a half-year's worth of operating in 5-year training programs. Bedrock general surgery cases—trauma, vascular, pediatrics, and breast—decreased. Laparoscopic operations have steadily increased. If the competence of current graduates has, in fact, diminished. Our analysis suggests that operative volume
is not the problem. Rather, changing disease processes, subspecialization, reductions in resident autonomy, and technical innovation challenge how today's general surgeons are trained.