Simulation is a standard component of residency training in many surgical subspecialties, yet its impact on knowledge and skills acquisition in plastic surgery training remains poorly defined. The authors evaluated the potential benefits of simulation-based cleft surgery learning in plastic surgery resident education through a prospective, randomized, blinded trial.
Thirteen plastic surgery residents were randomized to a digital simulator or textbook demonstrating unilateral cleft lip repair. The following parameters were evaluated before and after randomization: knowledge of surgical steps, procedural confidence, markings performance on a three-dimensional stone model, and surgical performance using a hands-on/high-fidelity three-dimensional haptic model. Participant satisfaction with either educational tool was also assessed. Two expert reviewers blindly graded markings and surgical performance. Intraclass correlation coefficients were calculated. Wilcoxon signed rank and Mann-Whitney U
tests were used.
Interrater reliability was strong for preintervention and postintervention grading of markings [preintervention intraclass correlation coefficient, 0.97 (p
< 0.001); postintervention intraclass correlation coefficient, 0.96 (p
< 0.001)] and surgical [preintervention intraclass correlation coefficient, 0.83 (p
= 0.002); postintervention intraclass correlation coefficient, 0.81 (p
= 0.004)] performance. Postintervention surgical knowledge (40.3 ± 4.4 versus 33.5 ± 3.7; p
= 0.03), procedural confidence (24.0 ± 7.0 versus 14.7 ± 2.3; p
= 0.03), markings performance (8.0 ± 2.5 versus 2.9 ± 3.1; p
= 0.03), and surgical performance (12.3 ± 2.5 versus 8.2 ± 2.3; p
= 0.04) significantly improved in the digital simulation group compared with before intervention, but not in the textbook group. All participants were more satisfied with the digital simulator as an educational tool (27.7 ± 2.5 versus 14.4 ± 4.4; p
The authors present evidence suggesting that digital cognitive simulators lead to significant improvement in surgical knowledge, procedural confidence, markings performance, and surgical performance.