The total number of hysterectomies performed during residency training has declined significantly since 2008, despite an increase in laparoscopic hysterectomies performed, according to a new analysis of data from graduating ob.gyn. residents that has implications for the structure of resident education.
The investigators abstracted case log data from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) database to assess trends in residents’ operative experience and found decreases in abdominal and vaginal cases but an increase in experience with laparoscopic hysterectomy.
(from 85 cases to 37), and the median number of vaginal hysterectomies decreased by 36% (from 31 to 20 cases).
Laparoscopic hysterectomy increased by 115% from a median of 20 procedures in 2008-2009 to 43 in 2017-2018. Even so, the median total number of hysterectomies per resident decreased by 6%, from 112 to 105 procedures during those two time periods. (Data on total hysterectomy and laparoscopic hysterectomy were not collected by ACGME until 2008.)
While the absolute decrease in the total number of hysterectomies is “relatively small,” the trend “raises questions about what the appropriate number of hysterectomies per graduating resident should be,”of the Montefiore Medical Center, New York, and coauthors wrote in .
“These data point,” they wrote, “to the necessity of maximizing surgical exposure in the face of a declining availability of procedures and the importance of reflecting on which (and how many) procedures an obstetrics and gynecology resident needs to complete before entering clinical practice.”
The training numbers parallel an increased use of laparoscopic hysterectomy in the United States and other countries, as well as a well-documented decline in the total number of hysterectomies performed in the United States, the latter of which is driven largely by the availability and increasing use of alternatives to the procedure (such as hormone therapy, endometrial ablation, and uterine artery embolization).
Hysterectomy still is a “core procedure of gynecologic surgery,” however, and is “at the heart of surgical training in obstetrics and gynecology,” as surgical techniques developed from learning hysterectomy “are applied broadly in the pelvis,”, wrote in .
Dr. Guntupalli, of the University of Colorado at Aurora, Denver, was involved in a survey of fellowship program directors, published in 2015, that found only 20% of first-year fellows were able to independently perform a vaginal hysterectomy and 46% to independently perform an abdominal hysterectomy ().
This and other research suggest that fellowship training is “used to address deficiencies in residency training rather than to develop new, specialized surgical skills,” he wrote. Given a dearth of fellowship positions in ob.gyn., “it is impossible to adequately use those avenues to train the number of competent surgeons necessary to address the surgical needs of women’s health in the United States.”
To address such concerns, some residency programs have instituted resident tracking to direct more hysterectomy cases toward those residents who plan to pursue surgical subspecialties. The Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Guntupalli noted, has tried the latter approach “with success.”
An increase in the number of accredited training programs and a decrease in the number of residents per program also might help to improve surgical exposure for residents, Dr. Gressel and associates wrote. Over the 16-year study period, the number of graduating residents increased significantly (by 12 per year) and the number of residency programs decreased significantly (0.52 fewer programs per year).
Additionally, Dr. Guntupalli wrote, regulatory bodies may need to reevaluate how competencies are assessed, and whether minimal numbers of cases “continue to carry the same weight as they did in previous generations.”
In the study, one coauthor is a full-time employee of ACGME, and another receives funds as a director for the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The remaining authors had no relevant financial disclosures. There was no outside funding for the study. Dr. Guntupalli said he had no conflicts of interest.
SOURCES: Gressel GM et al. ; Guntupalli SR.