Background Common bile duct exploration (CBDE) is safe and effective for managing choledocholithiasis, but most US general surgeons have limited experience with CBDE and are uncomfortable performing this procedure in practice. Surgical trainee exposure to CBDE is limited, and their learning curve for achieving autonomous, practice-ready performance has not been previously described. This study tests the hypothesis that receipt of one or more prior CBDE operative performance assessments, combined with formative feedback, is associated with greater resident operative performance and autonomy. Methods Resident and attending assessments of resident operative performance and autonomy were obtained for 189 laparoscopic or open CBDEs performed at 28 institutions. Performance and autonomy were graded along validated ordinal scales. Cases in which the resident had one or more prior CBDE case evaluations (n = 48) were compared with cases in which the resident had no prior evaluations (n = 141). Results Compared with cases in which the resident had no prior CBDE case evaluations, cases with a prior evaluation had greater proportions of practice-ready or exceptional performance ratings according to both residents (27% vs. 11%, p = .009) and attendings (58% vs. 19%, p < .001) and had greater proportions of passive help or supervision only autonomy ratings according to both residents (17% vs. 4%, p = .009) and attendings (69% vs. 32%, p < .01). Conclusions Residents with at least one prior CBDE evaluation and formative feedback demonstrated better operative performance and received greater autonomy than residents without prior evaluations, underscoring the propensity of feedback to help residents achieve autonomous, practice-ready performance for rare operations.
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