Abdominal wall closure: resident education and human error


Secure abdominal wall closure for laparotomy incisions is paramount in prevention of hernia formation. Despite the importance, abdominal closure is often delegated to the resident surgeon. The purpose of this study was to assess residents’ formal training, knowledge, and technique in abdominal wall closure. All surgical residents in our training program participated in a skills laboratory and completed a questionnaire. The skills portion involved closure of a 10-cm incision on a simulated abdominal wall. Participants were timed, videotaped, and graded using a standardized grading system. Lengths of the suture bites were measured. Regression analysis was used to compare results based on number of closures. A P-value of <0.05 was considered significant. Ten surgical residents participated. The average time for closure was 4:23 min (range 3:08–5:65 min). The average distance between the bite and the incision was 0.9 cm and between bites was 0.8 cm. All knots were satisfactory and intact following closure. Participants’ experience varied with a range from 0 to 230 previous abdominal closures. All residents chose to perform closure in a continuous fashion using a slowly absorbing suture. All but one resident stated that sutures should be placed 1 cm from the incision with 1 cm advances. Only one resident knew the correct suture-to-wound length ratio for closure, and only four residents were familiar with the literature about abdominal wall closure. With increasing closure experience, there was significant improvement in time and motion of suturing (P = 0.02), respect of tissue (P = 0.0002), instrument handling (P = 0.004), orientation of needle (P = 0.0076), and flow of closure (P = 0.046). Residents who had performed more closures took significantly larger suture bites (P = 0.03) with larger distances between bites (P = 0.03). Surgical technique improves with increased experience with abdominal closures; however, residents at all levels have the physical ability to adequately perform this task. Education regarding closure appears to be lacking, and further study warranted.


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