Skills in Open Surgery do not Predict Arthroscopic Skills in Medical Students


Teaching of basic open surgical skills like skin closure has been well established in medical schools’ surgical curricula. The same cannot be said for basic arthroscopic skills even though the importance of arthroscopic surgery in Orthopaedics has been well documented. The goal of this study was to evaluate the relationship between basic skills in open surgery and basic arthroscopic skills in a cohort of medical students. Our hypothesis was that performance in open surgical skills does not correlate with skills in arthroscopic surgery.


The performance of medical students in basic tasks in open surgery (porcine model: subcutaneous and skin suturing) and arthroscopic surgery (bench top model: arthroscopic triangulation and object transfer) was assessed. For both surgical techniques an introductory course was given followed by a standardized assessment. After 1 week both open and arthroscopic tasks were reassessed. All procedures were recorded and scored by 2 independent observers in a blinded fashion.


The study was performed at the skills lab of the Clinic for Orthopaedics and Tumororthopaedics at University Hospital Muenster in Muenster Germany.


A cohort of 21 medical students (average age 22.2 years) participated in this study. The cohort consisted of 17 female (81%) and 4 male (19%) students. All students were in the clinical part of their study and had not received any prior surgical education.


Interobserver reliability was very high for the arthroscopic tasks and high for the open surgery tasks. No correlation was found between open and arthroscopic skills. For the first assessment the correlation coefficient was r = 0.197 (p = 0.391). For the second assessment the correlation coefficient was r = 0.212 (p = 0.356). Significant improvement from first to second assessment was only found for the arthroscopic tasks (p < 0.0001) while improvement in the open surgery performance failed to reach statistical significance (p = 0.184).


The results of this study suggest that performance in open surgical skills does not correlate with performance in arthroscopic skills and should be taught independent from each other. Arthroscopic skills can effectively be taught with bench top training systems in a time- and resource efficient manner, with measurable results even in a 1-day-course setup. Arthroscopic skills training may be offered in undergraduate curricula in addition to open surgical skills training to students with an interest in Orthopaedics.