Objective: Study the learning curve for canine Natural Orifice Transluminal Endoscopic Surgery (NOTES) ovariectomy by evaluating operative times and complications. Study Design: Preclinical research study. Animals: Adult female dogs (n=20). Methods: NOTES ovariectomy procedures were performed as follows: Feasibility Group 1 (n=5), Feasibility Group 2 (n=5), and Early Clinical Group 3 (n=10). Six steps of the procedure were identified, timed separately, and the overall time was recorded from introduction to removal of the endoscope. Complications were recorded. Repeated measures analysis of variance using ranked data compared the effect of group (3 levels) on the time for each step. Nonlinear regression using an exponential model with nonzero asymptote was used to model the operative time-procedure number relationship. Results: Overall median operative time was significantly longer for Group 1 (195 minutes; range, 160-265 minutes) than Group 2 (108 minutes; range, 81-148 minutes; P=.048) and Group 3 (77 minutes; range, 41-136 minutes; P=.0008). The estimated asymptotic operative time was 71 minutes (95% confidence interval, 41-100 minutes); this time was reached after 10 procedures. Gastric cleansing and removing the left ovary took significantly longer in Group 1 than in Group 2 or 3. Operative complications included incomplete ovarian excision, dropping an ovary during retrieval, and conversion to an open procedure. No intraoperative complications occurred in Group 3. Conclusion: NOTES procedures result in longer operative times in the early part of the learning curve and require considerable experience before reaching proficiency.
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