BACKGROUND: The skills required for laparoscopic surgery are amenable to simulator-based training. Several computerized devices are now available. We hypothesized that the LAPSIM simulator can be shown to distinguish novice from experienced laparoscopic surgeons, thus establishing construct validity. METHODS: We tested residents of all levels and attending laparoscopic surgeons. The subjects were tested on eight software modules. Pass/fail (P/F), time (T), maximum level achieved (MLA), tissue damage (TD), motion, and error scores were compared using the t-test and analysis of variance. RESULTS: A total of 54 subjects were tested. The most significant difference was found when we compared the most (seven attending surgeons) and least experienced (10 interns) subjects. Grasping showed significance at P/F and MLA (p < 0.03). Clip applying was significant for P/F, MLA, motion, and errors (p < 0.02). Laparoscopic suturing was significant for P/F, MLA, T, TD, as was knot error (p < 0.05). This finding held for novice, intermediate, and expert subjects (p < 0.05) and for suturing time between attending surgeons and residents (postgraduate year [PGY] 1-4) (p < 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: LAPSIM has construct validity to distinguish between expert and novice laparoscopists. Suture simulation can be used to discriminate between individuals at different levels of residency and expert surgeons.
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