Background Live animals have been used for decades as one of the many training models for developing surgical skills. Microsurgery in particular relies on training for skill acquisition and maintenance, using live animal models, especially rats (murine models). Efforts are underway to reduce the number of rats sacrificed to achieve this objective. Methods A group of students with minimal microsurgical experience, after having gone through a basic microsurgical course, were randomly split into three equal groups, all three groups following a 24-week standard training program based on low- and medium-fidelity training models with standardized murine training days. In addition to the standard training regimen, each participant performed supplementary training on live rats every 4, 6, or 8 weeks. According to the training program, the procedures have been performed on chicken legs, flower petals, and rats, each procedure being blindly assessed and evaluated using validated models and scales. The primary evaluated outcome was the Stanford Microsurgery and Resident Training (SMaRT) scale result of the final rat anastomosis performed by each group, for which the tested hypothesis was one of noninferiority. The secondary outcomes were represented by the final rat anastomosis time, final chicken leg anastomosis result and time, and the final petal score. Results After the 24th week, no differences were observed between the three groups regarding their microsurgical skills, as measured by the aforementioned surgical outcomes. All participants improved significantly during the study (mean [standard deviation] 19 ± 4 points on the SMaRT scale), with no significant differences between the groups, p < 0.001 for noninferiority. Conclusion A training regimen based on low- and moderate-fidelity models, with the addition of training on a live rat every 8 weeks was noninferior to a training regimen that used a live rat every 6 weeks and also noninferior to a training regimen that used a live rat every 4 weeks.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Funding This work was supported by an Institutional Grant (ECHITAS - no. nr.29PFE/18.10.2018) awarded to the Iuliu Hatieganu University of Medicine and Pharmacy.
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