OBJECTIVE: Because open surgical skills training for trauma is limited in clinical practice, trauma skills training courses were developed to fill this gap, The aim of this report is to find supporting evidence for efficacy of these courses. The questions addressed are: What courses are available and is there robust evidence of benefit?

DESIGN: We performed a systematic review of the training course literature on open trauma surgery procedural skills courses for surgeons using Kirkpatrick's framework for evaluating complex educational interventions. Courses were identified using Pubmed, Google Scholar and other databases.

SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: The review was carried out at the University of Maryland, Baltimore with input from civilian and military trauma surgeons, all of whom have taught and/or developed trauma skills courses.

RESULTS: We found 32 course reports that met search criteria, including 21 trauma-skills training courses. Courses were of variable duration, content, cost and scope. There were no prospective randomized clinical trials of course impact. Efficacy for most courses was with Kirkpatrick level 1 and 2 evidence of benefit by self-evaluations, and reporting small numbers of respondents. Few courses assessed skill retention with longitudinal data before and after training. Three courses, namely: Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS), Advanced Surgical Skills for Exposure in Trauma (ASSET) and Advanced Trauma Operative Management (ATOM) have Kirkpatrick's level 2-3 evidence for efficacy. Components of these 3 courses are included in several other courses, but many skills courses have little published evidence of training efficacy or skills retention durability.

CONCLUSIONS: Large variations in course content, duration, didactics, operative models, resource requirements and cost suggest that standardization of content, duration, and development of metrics for open surgery skills would be beneficial, as would translation into improved trauma patient outcomes. Surgeons at all levels of training and experience should participate in these trauma skills courses, because these procedures are rarely performed in routine clinical practice. Faculty running courses without evidence of training benefit should be encouraged to study outcomes to show their course improves technical skills and subsequently patient outcomes. Obtaining Kirkpatrick's level 3 and 4 evidence for benefits of ASSET, ATOM, ATLS and for other existing courses should be a high priority.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)832-843
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Surgical Education
Issue number3
Early online date1 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - May 2019


  • Educational measurement
  • Efficacy of training
  • Hemorrhage control skill
  • Medical Knowledge
  • Open surgical procedures skills
  • Patient Care
  • Practice-Based Learning and Improvement
  • Systems-Based Practice
  • Trauma Training


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