Rationale, scope, and 20-year experience of vascular surgical training with lifelike pulsatile flow models

Hans-Henning Eckstein, MD, PhD, Jürg Schmidli, MD, Hardy Schumacher, MD, Lorenz Gürke, MD, Klaus Klemm, MD, PhD, Nikolaus Duschek, MD, Toni Meile and Afshin Assadian, MD

Vascular surgical training currently has to cope with various challenges, including restrictions on work hours, significant reduction of open surgical training cases in many countries, an increasing diversity of open and endovascular procedures, and distinct expectations by trainees. Even more important, patients and the public no longer accept a “learning by doing” training philosophy that leaves the learning curve on the patient’s side. The Vascular International (VI) Foundation and School aims to overcome these obstacles by training conventional vascular and endovascular techniques before they are applied on patients. To achieve largely realistic training conditions, lifelike pulsatile models with exchangeable synthetic arterial inlays were created to practice carotid endarterectomy and patch plasty, open abdominal aortic aneurysm surgery, and peripheral bypass surgery, as well as for endovascular procedures, including endovascular aneurysm repair, thoracic endovascular aortic repair, peripheral balloon dilatation, and stenting. All models are equipped with a small pressure pump inside to create pulsatile flow conditions with variable peak pressures of w90 mm Hg. The VI course schedule consists of a series of 2-hour modules teaching different open or endovascular procedures step-by-step in a standardized fashion. Trainees practice in pairs with continuous supervision and intensive advice provided by highly experienced vascular surgical trainers (trainer-to-trainee ratio is 1:4). Several evaluations of these courses show that tutor-assisted training on lifelike models in an educational-centered and motivated environment is associated with a significant increase of general and specific vascular surgical technical competence within a short period of time. Future studies should evaluate whether these benefits positively influence the future learning curve of vascular surgical trainees and clarify to what extent sophisticated models are useful to assess the level of technical skills of vascular surgical residents at national or international board examinations. This article gives an overview of our experiences of >20 years of practical training of beginners and advanced vascular surgeons using lifelike pulsatile vascular surgical training models. (J Vasc Surg 2013;57:1422-8.)

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