Background: Microsurgery is one the most complex surgical skills to master. The factors correlating with microsurgical performance, however, are poorly understood. Understanding these factors will aid in the training and assessment of microsurgeons. Methods: A total of 29 microsurgery fellows enrolled in a dedicated 1-year microsurgery fellowship were included in the study. For the clinical evaluations, microsurgical anastomosis performance was evaluated during multiple procedures in the operating room at the start, midpoint, and end of the fellowship by all departmental faculty using a validated microsurgical assessment tool. For the laboratory evaluations, blinded video recordings of each fellow performing an arterial femoral anastomosis in a live rat model at the start and end of the fellowship were evaluated using 3 validated microsurgical global ratings scale tools. Correlations between performance and the factors assessed by the tools were evaluated. Results: In the clinical study there were a total of 474 anastomosis evaluations; clinical performance correlated best with speed, instrument handling, and motion. In the laboratory study 58 evaluations were conducted, and performance tracked most closely with instrument handling, flow of operation, and operative steps, as well as correlating significantly inversely with time taken. The most common errors committed were unequal stitch bites, wrong grasp/damage tissue, and loose knot. Conclusions: Speed, both subjective and objective, instrument handling, operative flow, and motion, were relevant to performance of a microsurgical anastomosis. A prospective trial is now necessary to determine whether these factors should be considered in definitions of competency in microsurgery training pathways.
- Practice-Based Learning and Improvement
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