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Systematic review of the current status of cadaveric simulation for surgical training.

Published: 1st October 2019

Authors: H. K. James, A. W. Chapman, G. T. R. Pattison, D. R. Griffin, J. D. Fisher


There is growing interest in and provision of cadaveric simulation courses for surgical trainees. This is being driven by the need to modernize and improve the efficiency of surgical training within the current challenging training climate. The objective of this systematic review is to describe and evaluate the evidence for cadaveric simulation in postgraduate surgical training.


A PRISMA‐compliant systematic literature review of studies that prospectively evaluated a cadaveric simulation training intervention for surgical trainees was undertaken. All relevant databases and trial registries were searched to January 2019. Methodological rigour was assessed using the widely validated Medical Education Research Quality Index (MERSQI) tool.


A total of 51 studies were included, involving 2002 surgical trainees across 69 cadaveric training interventions. Of these, 22 assessed the impact of the cadaveric training intervention using only subjective measures, five measured impact by change in learner knowledge, and 23 used objective tools to assess change in learner behaviour after training. Only one study assessed patient outcome and demonstrated transfer of skill from the simulated environment to the workplace. Of the included studies, 67 per cent had weak methodology (MERSQI score less than 10·7).


There is an abundance of relatively low‐quality evidence showing that cadaveric simulation induces short‐term skill acquisition as measured by objective means. There is currently a lack of evidence of skill retention, and of transfer of skills following training into the live operating theatre.

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