Comparison of Outcomes of Abdominal Wall Reconstruction Performed by Surgical Fellows vs Faculty

Abbas M. Hassan, Malke Asaad, Nikhil R. Shah, Francesco M. Egro, Jun Liu, Renata S. Maricevich, Jesse C. Selber, Matthew M. Hanasono, Charles E. Butler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


IMPORTANCE: Concern regarding surgical trainees' operative autonomy has increased in recent years, emphasizing patient safety and preparation for independent practice. Regarding abdominal wall reconstruction (AWR), long-term outcomes of fellow autonomy have yet to be delineated.

OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the long-term outcomes of AWRs performed by fellows and compare them with those of AWRs performed by assistant, associate, and senior-level professors.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: This retrospective cohort study included patients who underwent AWR for ventral hernias or repair of tumor resection defects at a 710-bed tertiary cancer center between March 1, 2005, and June 30, 2019. The analysis was conducted between January 2020 and December 2021.

EXPOSURE: Academic rank of primary surgeon.

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: The primary outcome was hernia recurrence. Secondary outcomes were surgical site occurrence, surgical site infection, length of hospital stay, unplanned return to the operating room, and 30-day readmission. Multivariable hierarchical models were constructed to identify predictive factors.

RESULTS: Of 810 consecutive patients, 720 (mean [SD] age, 59.8 [11.5] years; 375 female [52.1%]) met the inclusion criteria. Mean (SD) body mass index was 31.4 (6.7), and mean (SD) follow-up time was 42 (29) months. Assistant professors performed the most AWRs (276 [38.3%]), followed by associate professors (169 [23.5%]), senior-level professors (157 [21.8%]), and microsurgical fellows (118 [16.4%]). Compared with fellows and more junior surgeons, senior-level professors tended to operate on significantly older patients (mean [SD] age, 59.9 [10.9] years; P = .03), more patients with obesity (103 [65.6%]; P = .003), and patients with larger defects (247.9 [216.0] cm; P < .001), parastomal hernias (27 [17.2%]; P = .001), or rectus muscle violation (53 [33.8%]; P = .03). No significant differences were found for hernia recurrence, surgical site occurrence, surgical site infection, 30-day readmission rates, or length of stay among the fellows and assistant, associate, and senior-level professors in adjusted models. Compared with fellows, assistant professors (OR, 0.22; 95% CI, 0.08-0.64) and senior-level professors (OR, 0.20; 95% CI, 0.06-0.69) had lower rates of unplanned return to the operating room.

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: This cohort study provides evidence-based reassurance that providing fellows with autonomy in performing AWRs does not compromise long-term patient outcomes. These findings may incite efforts to increase appropriate surgical trainee autonomy, thereby empowering future generations of competent, independent surgeons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number12444
Pages (from-to)e2212444
JournalJAMA Network Open
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2 2022


  • Abdominal Wall/surgery
  • Cohort Studies
  • Faculty
  • Female
  • Hernia, Ventral/surgery
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surgical Wound Infection/epidemiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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