Factors Associated with General Surgery Residents' Operative Experience during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Amanda C. Purdy, Christian De Virgilio, Amy H. Kaji, Edgar Shields Frey, Steven Lee-Kong, Kenji Inaba, Jeffrey M. Gauvin, Angela L. Neville, Timothy R. Donahue, Brian R. Smith, Edgardo S. Salcedo, Kristine E. Calhoun, V. Prasad Poola, Jukes P. Namm, David A. Spain, Karen J. Dickinson, Tiffany Tanner, Mary Wolfe, Farin Amersi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Importance: The suspension of elective operations in March 2020 to prepare for the COVID-19 surge posed significant challenges to resident education. To mitigate the potential negative effects of COVID-19 on surgical education, it is important to quantify how the pandemic influenced resident operative volume. Objective: To examine the association of the pandemic with general surgical residents' operative experience by postgraduate year (PGY) and case type and to evaluate if certain institutional characteristics were associated with a greater decline in surgical volume. Design, Setting, and Participants: This retrospective review included residents' operative logs from 3 consecutive academic years (2017-2018, 2018-2019, and 2019-2020) from 16 general surgery programs. Data collected included total major cases, case type, and PGY. Faculty completed a survey about program demographics and COVID-19 response. Data on race were not collected. Operative volumes from March to June 2020 were compared with the same period during 2018 and 2019. Data were analyzed using Kruskal-Wallis test adjusted for within-program correlations. Main Outcome and Measures: Total major cases performed by each resident during the first 4 months of the pandemic. Results: A total of 1368 case logs were analyzed. There was a 33.5% reduction in total major cases performed in March to June 2020 compared with 2018 and 2019 (45.0 [95% CI, 36.1-53.9] vs 67.7 [95% CI, 62.0-72.2]; P <.001), which significantly affected every PGY. All case types were significantly reduced in 2020 except liver, pancreas, small intestine, and trauma cases. There was a 10.2% reduction in operative volume during the 2019-2020 academic year compared with the 2 previous years (192.3 [95% CI, 178.5-206.1] vs 213.8 [95% CI, 203.6-223.9]; P <.001). Level 1 trauma centers (49.5 vs 68.5; 27.7%) had a significantly lower reduction in case volume than non-level 1 trauma centers (33.9 vs 63.0; 46%) (P =.03). Conclusions and Relevance: In this study of operative logs of general surgery residents in 16 US programs from 2017 to 2020, the first 4 months of the COVID-19 pandemic was associated with a significant reduction in operative experience, which affected every PGY and most case types. Level 1 trauma centers were less affected than non-level 1 centers. If this trend continues, the effect on surgical training may be even more detrimental..

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)767-774
Number of pages8
JournalJAMA Surgery
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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