Surgery resident education is based on experiential training, which is influenced by changes in clinical management strategies, technical and technologic advances, and administrative regulations. Trauma care has been exposed to each of these factors, prompting concerns about resident experience in operative trauma. The current study analyzed the reported volume of operative trauma for the last two decades; to our knowledge, this is the first evaluation of nationwide trends during such an extended time line.
The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) database of operative logs was queried from academic year (AY) 1989–1990 to 2009–2010 to identify shifts in trauma operative experience. Annual case log data for each cohort of graduating surgery residents were combined into approximately 5-year blocks, designated Period I (AY1989–1990 to AY1993–1994), Period II (AY1994–1995 to AY1998–1999), Period III (AY1999–2000 to AY2002–2003), and Period IV (AY2003–2004 to AY2009–2010). The latter two periods were delineated by the year in which duty hour restrictions were implemented.
Overall general surgery caseload increased from Period I to Period II (p < 0.001), remained stable from Period II to Period III, and decreased from Period III to Period IV (p < 0.001). However, for ACGME-designated trauma cases, there were significant declines from Period I to Period II (75.5 vs. 54.5 cases, p < 0.001) and Period II to Period III (54.5 vs. 39.3 cases, p < 0.001) but no difference between Period III and Period IV (39.3 vs. 39.4 cases). Graduating residents in Period I performed, on average, 31 intra-abdominal trauma operations, including approximately five spleen and four liver operations. Residents in Period IV performed 17 intra-abdominal trauma operations, including three spleen and approximately two liver operations.
Recent general surgery trainees perform fewer trauma operations than previous trainees. The majority of this decline occurred before implementation of work-hour restrictions. Although these changes reflect concurrent changes in management of trauma, surgical educators must meet the challenge of training residents in procedures less frequently performed.
LEVEL OF EVIDENCE
Epidemiologic study, level III; therapeutic study, level IV.