Today, three-fourths of surveyed general surgery residency programs across the United States train residents without using animals.
Animals used in general surgery training suffer numerous invasive procedures and are killed either during or at the end of the training session. The anatomical and physiological differences between animals and humans render this type of training ineffective.
Surgery residency programs teach a range of open and/or laparoscopic procedural skills, including appendectomy (an incision is made to remove the appendix), cholecystectomy (an incision is made to remove the gallbladder), gastrectomy (an incision is made to remove part of the stomach), small and large bowel resection and anastomosis (an incision is made to remove part of the bowel and a surgical connection is created between the remaining sections with either sutures or staples), and adrenalectomy (an incision is made to remove tumors of the adrenal glands).
These procedures can all be taught using human-based methods, including laparoscopic, virtual reality, and human-patient simulators; human cadavers; and partial task trainers. For example, Surgical Science’s LapSim is a virtual reality laparoscopic simulator that allows trainees to develop proficiency in a variety of minimally invasive procedures. Among the numerous simulators that can be used to teach surgical skills are Simulab’s TraumaMan System, CAE Healthcare’s LapVR Surgical Simulator, and Maximum Fidelity’s EnviroPC Perfused Cadaver.
In December 2018, the Physicians Committee began a survey of general surgery residency programs in the United States and Canada to determine training methodologies. Due to the large number of programs, the survey is ongoing.