Porcine wet lab improves surgical skills in third year medical students

Joseph Drosdeck, Ellen Carraro, Mark Arnold, Kyle Perry, Alan Harzman, Rollin Nagel, Lynnsay Sinclair, Peter Muscarella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Background: Medical students desire to become proficient in surgical techniques and believe their acquisition is important. However, the operating room is a challenging learning environment. Small group procedural workshops can improve confidence, participation, and performance. The use of fresh animal tissues has been rated highly among students and improves their surgical technique. Greater exposure to surgical procedures and staff could positively influence students' interest in surgical careers. We hypothesized that a porcine "wet lab" course for third year medical students would improve their surgical skills. Methods: Two skills labs were conducted for third year medical students during surgery clerkships in the fall of 2011. The students' surgical skills were first evaluated in the operating room across nine dimensions. Next, the students performed the following procedures during the skills lab: (1) laparotomy; (2) small bowel resection; (3) splenectomy; (4) partial hepatectomy; (5) cholecystectomy; (6) interrupted abdominal wall closure; (7) running abdominalwall closure;and(8) skinclosure. After the skills lab, the studentswere re-evaluated in the operating room across the same nine dimensions. Student feedback was also recorded. Fifty-one participants provided pre- and post-lab data for use in the final analysis. Results: The mean scores for all nine surgical skills improved significantly after participation in the skills lab (P ± 0.002). Cumulative post-test scores also showed significant improvement (P = 0.002). Finally, the student feedback was largely positive. Conclusions: The surgical skills of third year medical students improved significantly after participation in a porcine wet lab, and the students rated the experience as highly educational. Integration into the surgery clerkship curriculum would promote surgical skill proficiency and could elicit interest in surgical careers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-25
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Animal lab
  • Medical student education
  • Pig lab
  • Simulation
  • Surgical education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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