Results of a recently released study show that a new standardized assessment tool is an effective way to track surgeons’ progress in developing the skills they need to perform robot-assisted microsurgery.
The study, headed by Jesse C. Selber, M.D., director of clinical research in the Department of Plastic Surgery at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, calls the Structured Assessment of Robotic Microsurgical Skills (SARMS) “the first validated instrument for assessing robotic microsurgical skills.”
The SARMS consists of 11 items—six evaluating microsurgery skills and five evaluating robotic skills. Initial assessments using the SARMS show that after a steep initial learning curve, surgical trainees display steady improvement in performing robot-assisted tasks. After the SARMS was validated, expert surgeons used it to grade videos of trainees performing robot-assisted microvascular anastomoses. Nine trainees were graded on five videos made as they gained experience with the robotic surgical system. Changes in scores in each area were assessed, as was the time required to complete the procedures.
The SARMS scores documented general improvement in microsurgical skills over five practice sessions. On a five-point scale, the trainees’ average ratings of overall skill and performance increased from about two to four, while average operative time gradually decreased from about 30 to just under 20 minutes.
“This study demonstrates that robotic surgical skills are measurable and can be acquired over a fairly short timeline.” Dr. Selber tells Cosmetic Surgery Times. “This has implications for the general plastic surgeon, who may want to apply these skills in his or her practice. Robotic techniques have limitless potential in both minimally invasive and open-field surgery, and plastic surgeons who acquire these skills will position themselves as leaders and innovators in the market place.”
The study appears in the October issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.