Activity analysis: measurement of the effectiveness of surgical training and operative technique.
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All surgical procedures are characterised by a sequence of steps and instrument changes. Although surgical efficiency and training in operative technique closely relate to this process, few studies have attempted to analyse it quantitatively. Because efficiency is particularly important in day surgery and lower third molar removal is a high-volume procedure, the need for which is responsible for particularly long waiting-lists in almost all UK health regions, this operation was selected for evaluation. A series of 80 consecutive procedures, carried out for 43 day-stay patients under general anaesthesia by seven junior staff (senior house officers and registrars: 39 procedures) and four senior staff (senior registrars and consultants: 41 procedures) were analysed. Median operating time for procedures which required retraction of periosteum was 9.5 min (range 2.7-23.3 min). Where these steps were necessary, median time for incision was 25 s (range 10-90 s); for retraction of periosteum, 79 s (range 5-340 s); for bone removal, 118 s (range 10-380 s); for tooth excision, 131 s (range 10-900 s); for debridement, 74 s (range 5-270 s); and for suture, 144 s (range 25-320 s). Junior surgeons could be differentiated from senior surgeons on the basis of omission, repetition and duration of these steps. Juniors omitted retraction of periosteum in 10% of procedures (seniors 23%) and suture in 13% (seniors 32%). Juniors repeated steps in 47% of operations; seniors, 14%. Junior surgeons took significantly more time than senior surgeons for incision, bone removal and tooth excision. No significant differences between junior and senior surgeons were found in relation to the incidence of altered lingual and labial sensation at 7 days. It was concluded that activity analysis may be a useful measure of the effectiveness of surgical training and the efficiency of operative technique.
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