Recent socioeconomic pressures in healthcare and work hour resections have limited opportunities for resident autonomy and independent decision-making. We sought to evaluate whether contemporary senior residents are being given the opportunity to operate independently and whether patient outcomes are affected when the attending is not directly involved in an operation.
The VA Surgical Quality Improvement Program (VASQIP) Database was queried to identify patients undergoing elective laparoscopic cholecystectomy between 2004 and 2019. Cases were categorized as “attending” or “resident” depending on whether the attending surgeon was scrubbed. Cohorts were 1:1 propensity score–matched (PSM) for demographics, comorbidities, and facility case-mix. Clinical outcomes for matched cohorts were compared by standard methods.
There were 23,831 records for patients who underwent laparoscopic cholecystectomy; 20,568 (86%) performed with the attending scrubbed, and 3,263 (14%) without the attending scrubbed. Over time there was a significant decrease in the proportion of cases without the attending scrubbed, 18% in 2004–2009 to 13% in 2015–2019 (p < 0.001). On PSM, 3,263 patients undergoing laparoscopic cholecystectomy by the residents without the attending scrubbed were successfully matched (1:1) to cases with the attending scrubbed. On comparison of matched cohorts, procedures performed without the attending scrubbed were statistically longer (102 vs 98 minutes, p = 0.001) but with no difference in rates of postoperative complications (5% vs 5%, p = 0.9).
In comparison with cases done with more direct attending involvement, residents perform laparoscopic cholecystectomies efficiently without increased complications. Over time, attendings are more frequently scrubbed for the operation.