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Surgery. 2018 Sep;164(3):577-582. doi: 10.1016/j.surg.2018.04.037. Epub 2018 Jun 19.

Narrowing of the surgical resident operative experience: A 27-year analysis of national ACGME case logs.

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Department of Surgery, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH. Electronic address:
University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Cincinnati, OH.
Department of Surgery, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH.
Department of Surgery, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA.
Center for Liver Disease and Transplantation, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY.



Although overall operative volume has remained stable since the implementation of duty hours, more detailed analyses suggest shifts in the resident operative experience. Understanding these differences allows educators to better appreciate the impact of the current training environment on resident preparation for practice.


National Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education case logs from 1990 to 2016 were reviewed. Statistical analysis was performed using analysis of variance and linear regression analysis.


Over the study period there was no change in total major cases. Subcategory analysis revealed an increase in skin and soft tissue, alimentary tract, abdomen, and endocrine with a concurrent decrease in breast, pediatrics, and trauma. During this time, residents completed fewer cases during their chief year, operated more during non-chief years, taught fewer operations, and assisted in minimal cases. Finally, a decrease in the variability of overall operative volume for total major cases was found as a result of 90th and 10th percentiles converging toward the median.


Although total major cases logged by residents have remained stable, the operative experience of general surgery residents has narrowed significantly. Residents are operating earlier and performing fewer teaching and first assistant cases. Surgical educators must look beyond total case numbers and be aware of these changes to ensure all residents achieve technical competency on graduation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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