Assessing Resident Impact on Surgical Outcomes in Below-the-Knee Amputations Based on Operative Autonomy

Published:April 22, 2022DOI:


      • Retrospective cohort study of VASQIP database for below-the-knee amputations.
      • Comparison of resident independent cases and attending scrubbed cases.
      • No difference in 30-day postoperative mortality and operative time.
      • Length of stay and blood transfusion was higher in resident independent cases.
      • 2000–2020 declining rates of resident operative independence over time.


      Gradual increases in resident autonomy with attending physician oversight is crucial to developing safe and competent surgeons1. The Veterans Affairs Surgical Quality Improvement Program (VASQIP) follows surgical outcomes within the VA. We set forth to examine the VASQIP database to compare outcomes between resident independent cases and nonindependent cases during below-the-knee amputations (BKA).


      All VASQIP records for BKA from 2000 to 2020 were examined and categorized based on whether the attending was scrubbed during the case. Case matching was performed based on preoperative comorbidities; 30-day postoperative outcomes, including a return to the operating room, wound infection, and mortality, were assessed in addition to operative time, hospital length of stay, and transfusion requirements. Student's t-test and Fisher’s Exact Test were utilized.


      A total of 13,208 BKA VASQIP records were obtained. After case control matching, 2,688 cases remained. Cases were identified with the attending surgeon noted as being scrubbed during the case (n = 1,344), or not scrubbed (n = 1,344). Patients were similar in comorbidities across both groups. No statistically significant difference in operative time (1.52 hr ± 0.78 vs. 1.47 hr ± 0.75, P = 0.08), 30-day mortality (3.3% vs. 4.8%, P = 0.05), or complication rate (19.5% vs. 21.3%, P = 0.25). Resident independent cases were noted to have slightly longer postop length of stay (12.47 days ± 12.69 vs. 15.33 days ± 20.56, P < 0.01) and operative bleeding requiring more than 4 units transfused (0.3% vs. 1.3%, P ≤ 0.01).


      Resident independent operating during below-the-knee amputation at VA hospitals is associated with an increased length of stay and blood transfusion. There was no statistically significant increase in operative time, 30-day mortality, or total complication rate. Further research is required to assess the risks associated with surgical training, resident supervision, and resident preparedness for independent practice.
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