Due to an increase in minimally invasive approaches to hysterectomy, including vaginal and laparoscopic approaches, gynecologic surgeons may need to turn to simulation training to augment practice and hone skills. Simulation is useful for all surgeons, especially for low-volume surgeons, as a warm-up to sharpen technical skills prior to starting the day’s cases. Additionally, educators are uniquely poised to use simulation to teach residents and to evaluate their procedural competency.
In this article, we provide an overview of the 3 approaches to hysterectomy—vaginal, laparoscopic, abdominal—through medical modeling and simulation techniques. We focus on practical issues, including current resources available online, cost, setup time, fidelity, and limitations of some commonly available vaginal, laparoscopic, and open hysterectomy models.
Simulation directly influences patient safety. Thus, the value of simulation cannot be overstated, as it can increase the quality of health care by improving patient outcomes and lowering overall costs. In 2008, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) founded the Simulations Working Group to establish simulation as a pillar in education for women’s health through collaboration, advocacy, research, and the development and implementation of multidisciplinary simulations-based educational resources and opportunities.
Refer to the ACOG Simulations Working Group Toolkit online to see the objectives, simulation, and videos related to each module. Under the “Hysterectomy” section, you will find how to construct the “flower pot” model for abdominal and vaginal hysterectomy, as well as the AAGL vaginal and laparoscopic hysterectomy webinars. All content is reaffirmed frequently to keep it up to date. You can access the toolkit, with your ACOG login and passcode, at https://www.acog.org/About-ACOG/ACOG-Departments/Simulations-Consortium/...
For a comprehensive gynecology curriculum to include vaginal, laparoscopic, and abdominal approaches to hysterectomy, refer to ACOG’s Surgical Curriculum in Obstetrics and Gynecology page at https://cfweb.acog.org/scog/. This page lists the standardized surgical skills curriculum for use in training residents in obstetrics and gynecology by procedure. It includes:
- the objective, description, and assessment of the module
- a description of the simulation
- a description of the surgical procedure
- a quiz that must be passed to proceed to evaluation by a faculty member
- an evaluation form to be downloaded and printed by the learner.
Takeaway. Value of Simulation = Quality (Improved Patient Outcomes) ÷ Direct and Indirect Costs.
Simulation models for training in vaginal hysterectomy
According to the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), the minimum number of vaginal hysterectomies is 15; this number represents the minimum accepted exposure, however, and does not imply competency. Exposure to vaginal hysterectomy in residency training has significantly declined over the years, with a mean of only 19 vaginal hysterectomies performed by the time of graduation in 2014.1
A wide range of simulation models are available that you either can construct or purchase, based on your budget. We discuss 3 such models below.
The Miya model
The Miya Model Pelvic Surgery Training Model (Miyazaki Enterprises) consists of a bony pelvic frame and multiple replaceable and realistic anatomic structures, including the uterus, cervix, and adnexa (1 structure), vagina, bladder, and a few selected muscles and ligaments for pelvic floor disorders (FIGURE 1). The model incorporates features to simulate actual surgical experiences, such as realistic cutting and puncturing tensions, palpable surgical landmarks, a pressurized vascular system with bleeding for inadequate technique, and an inflatable bladder that can leak water if damaged.
Mounted on a rotating stand with the top of the pelvis open, the Miya model is designed to provide access and visibility, enabling supervising physicians the ability to give immediate guidance and feedback. The interchangeable parts allow the learner to be challenged at the appropriate skill level with the use of a large uterus versus a smaller uterus.
New in 2018 is an “intern” uterus and vagina that have no vascular supply and a single-layer vagina; this model is one-third of the cost of the larger, high-fidelity uterus (which has a vascular supply and additional tissue layers).
The Miya model reusable bony pelvic frame has a one-time cost of a few thousand dollars. Advantages include its high fidelity, low technology, light weight, portability, and quick setup. To view a video of the Miya model, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=49&v=A2RjOgVRclo. To see a simulated vaginal hysterectomy, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=13&v=dwiQz4DTyy8.
The gynecologic surgeon and inventor, Dr. Douglas Miyazaki, has improved the vesicouterine peritoneal fold (usually the most challenging for the surgeon) to have a more realistic, slippery feel when palpated.
This model’s weaknesses are its cost (relative to low-fidelity models) and the inability to use energy devices.
Takeaway. The Miya model is a high-fidelity, portable vaginal hysterectomy model with a reusable base and consumable replacement parts. It can be tailored to the learner’s desired level of difficulty.
The Gynesim model
The Gynesim Vaginal Hysterectomy Model, developed by Dr. Malcolm “Kip” Mackenzie (Gynesim), is a high-fidelity surgical simulation model constructed from animal tissue to provide realistic training in pelvic surgery (FIGURE 2).
These “real tissue models” are hand-constructed from animal tissue harvested from US Department of Agriculture inspected meat processing centers. The models mimic normal and abnormal abdominal and pelvic anatomy, providing realistic feel (haptics) and response to all surgical energy modalities. The “cassette” tissues are placed within a vaginal approach platform, which is portable.
Each model (including a 120- to 240-g uterus, bladder, ureter, uterine artery, cardinal and uterosacral ligaments, and rectum) supports critical gaps in surgical techniques such as peritoneal entry and cuff closure. Gynesim staff set up the entire laboratory, including the simulation models, instruments, and/or cameras; however, surgical energy systems are secured from the host institution.
The advantages of this model are its excellent tissue haptics and the minimal preparation time required from the busy gynecologic teaching faculty, as the company performs the setup and breakdown. Disadvantages include the model’s cost (relative to low-fidelity models), that it does not bleed, its one-time use, and the need for technical assistance from the company for setup.
This model can be used for laparoscopic and open hysterectomy approaches, as well as for vaginal hysterectomy. For more information, visit the Gynesim website at https://www.gynesim.com/vaginal-hysterectomy/.
Takeaway. The high-fidelity Gynesim model can be used to practice vaginal, laparoscopic, or open hysterectomy approaches. It offers excellent tissue haptics, one-time use “cassettes” made from animal tissue, and compatibility with energy devices.
The milk jug model
The milk jug and fabric uterus model, developed by Dr. Dee Fenner, is a low-cost simulation model and an alternative to the flower pot model (described later in this article). The bony pelvis is simulated by a 1-gallon milk carton that is taped to a foam ring. Other materials used to make the uterus are fabric, stuffing, and a needle and thread (or a sewing machine). Each model costs approximately $5 and takes approximately 15 minutes to create. For instructions on how to construct this model, see the Society for Gynecologic Surgeons (SGS) award-winning video from 2012 at https://vimeo.com/123804677.
The advantages of this model are that it is inexpensive and is a good tool with which novice gynecologic surgeons can learn the basic steps of the procedure. The disadvantages are that it does not bleed, is not compatible with energy devices, and must be constructed by hand (adding considerable time) or with a sewing machine.
Takeaway. The milk jug model is a low-cost, low-fidelity model for the novice surgeon that can be quickly constructed with the use of a sewing machine.