Background: As an initial step in evaluating the effectiveness training otolaryngology residents on an endoscopic sinus surgery simulator (ES3), we have assessed the ability of the ES3 to train persons inexperienced in sinus surgery (medical students) to perform certain simulated procedural tasks needed in endoscopic sinus surgery (ESS). Methods: A total of 26 medical students were enrolled and trained on the ES3 following a preset protocol in the three levels of difficulty and complexity (novice, intermediate, and advanced modes). Results: In the novice mode (three-dimensional abstract images are used to teach the use of endoscopic surgical equipment), medical students displayed a steep learning curve within three to five trials on the simulator and after an additional four to five trials, they reached a plateau in their learning curves to within 90% of that of experienced sinus surgeons. In the intermediate mode (ESS is performed on a simulated patient with teaching aids), medical students were able to reach a plateau in their learning curves to within 80% of that of experienced surgeons. This performance was sustained in the advanced mode (simulated sinus surgery without teaching aids). We observed that medical students, who had novice or intermediate mode training interrupted with an interval of 11-60 days, were able to resume their training without deviation from their prior learning curves. Conclusion: Intensive, proctored training on the ES3 can train inexperienced persons to perform simulated ESS within a reasonable approximation of the performance of experienced sinus surgeons on the ES3 and the training that an inexperienced person receives on the simulator is not short term but is retained over a period of at least 2 months.
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