That's why it's a 5-year program: Resident acquisition of anorectal disease management competence

Seth Miller*, Vance Sohn, Marlin Wayne Causey, Matthew Martin, Tommy Brown, Scott Steele

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Although surgical residents are expected to be proficient in the diagnosis and management of anorectal pathology upon graduation, there is little data related to the timing and degree of proficiency acquired during training. Methods: Prospective study of new patients presenting to a colorectal surgical clinic for evaluation of anorectal complaints over a 3-y period. Trainees performed an initial evaluation and recorded their exam findings, diagnosis, and treatment plan. A separate evaluation by a staff colorectal surgeon was performed, with results compared by an independent reviewer. Results: A total of 236 patient evaluations were included. The accuracy of referral diagnosis was significantly better when originated from a surgeon than from all other referral sources (91.7% versus 59.1%, P = 0.031). The most common conditions were internal hemorrhoids (25%), anal fissures (22%), and external hemorrhoids (19.5%). Internal hemorrhoids were most commonly misdiagnosed as external hemorrhoids (58%). Anal fissures were missed 38% of the time, and were most often given the diagnosis of internal hemorrhoids (45%). Residents also demonstrated difficulty in identifying thrombosis in external hemorrhoids, with a 45% error rate. Medical students and residents had an overall correct primary diagnosis of 69.5%; however, there was a significant improvement in the accuracy of diagnosis from medical students and interns to upper level residents (62.9% versus 81.2%, P = 0.003). Medical treatment plans agreed between resident and staff in 74%, the surgical management agreed in 62%, and overall the residents had the correct diagnosis and corresponding treatment plan in 44%. Additional adjunctive procedures were proposed in 66 patients with residents stating the correct adjunct in 79%. The most frequently missed adjuncts were endorectal ultrasound (34%) and colonoscopy (28%). Conclusion: Surgical trainees demonstrated significant deficiencies in the ability to evaluate and manage anorectal pathology; however, marked improvement occurred with time in training. Common areas of misdiagnosis and therapeutic errors were identified which could aid in curriculum development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-192
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2012


  • anorectal pathology
  • colorectal exam
  • resident education
  • resident proficiency


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