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Postgrad Med J. 2005 Aug;81(958):537-40.

Laparoscopic colorectal surgery: learning curve and training implications.

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  • 1School of Care Sciences, University of Glamorgan, Pontypridd, Wales, UK.



This paper is a review of experience of laparoscopic colorectal surgery at a district general hospital with particular emphasis on the learning curve and training implications.


All patients undergoing colorectal surgery where laparoscopy was attempted between March 1998 and October 2003 were included in this study.


There were 80 patients of which 49 had malignancy. Twenty eight stomas and 52 bowel resections were performed laparoscopically. The conversion rate for bowel resection was 32% (decreasing from 38% to 44% to 22%). This was significant (p = 0.001) when compared with stoma formation (7%). The firm has support from a specialist registrar and staff grade surgeon. In 22% of cases, one of the middle grades was the principal operating surgeon, mainly laparoscopic mobilisation and stoma formation. Only 6% of resections were performed by the middle grades. Conversely, a middle grade was the main operating surgeon in 66% of open resections and 61% of stoma formations during the same period. There were in all two deaths and 14 postoperative complications. All patients who had laparoscopic resections for malignancy had clear resection margins.


This audit highlights that there is a long learning curve in laparoscopic colorectal surgery with decrease in conversion rates with increasing experience. There is also a reduction in training opportunities in open surgery during the learning phase of the consultant, although this may be counterbalanced by the exposure to laparoscopic techniques. Laparoscopic colonic mobilisation, as a part of stoma formation, is a good starting point for specialist registrar training.

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