Electrical and Computer Engineering Publications

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Canadian Journal of Surgery

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Background: Recognition of tissue planes during surgery appears to be a skill acquired with experience. We conducted a pilot study to test this hypothesis using a novel method for evaluating this skill in a simulated environment. Methods: Twelve surgeons of varying levels of experience were shown 16 captured images from a mesorectal excision. For each image, they were asked to draw the ideal dissection plane with a stylus on a tablet computer. We used a novel metric for comparing agreement between lines to determine the level of precision observed between junior and senior trainees and consultant surgeons and measure the accuracy of junior and senior trainees compared with consultant surgeons. Results: We observed significant differences in precision for 9 of 16 images; 7 of these followed the predicted stepwise pattern associated with level of experience. Using consultant surgeons as the reference standard, we observed significant differences in accuracy between senior and junior trainees for 11 images, with senior trainees being more accurate in 10 of them. Only 2 images failed to contribute significant findings to our analysis. Conclusion: The findings of this pilot evaluation of a novel method for measuring a surgeon's ability to recognize tissue planes in a simulated model show that skill improves with experience. Further evaluation of this method will reveal its utility as an assessment tool and possibly as a training instrument.