Evaluation of learning curves for ovariohysterectomy of dogs and cats and castration of dogs

Lynetta J. Freeman, Nancy Ferguson, Carol Fellenstein, Ron Johnson, Peter D. Constable

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE To define learning curves for fourth-year veterinary students performing ovariohysterectomy procedures in dogs and cats and castration in dogs. DESIGN Retrospective study. SAMPLE 3,196 ovariohysterectomies or castrations performed in dogs and cats by 88 veterinary students during a spay-neuter surgery and animal shelter rotation (n = 3,056) or by 1 experienced general practitioner (n = 140). PROCEDURES Data collected from medical records included patient signalment, type and duration of procedure, and sequence (by date and time) of the procedure within a list of procedures of the same type generated for each student. For each procedure type, geometric mean surgery time and 95% confidence intervals were determined for each number of surgeries completed by ≥ 10 students. Median surgery times for the same procedure types were determined for the experienced practitioner. The learning curve for each procedure was modeled with nonlinear (3-factor exponential equation with a nonzero asymptote) and linear regression. For each procedure, the asymptote (optimal surgery time) for students was compared with the experienced practitioner’s median surgery time. RESULTS 2,945 surgeries (mean, 33/student) performed by ≥ 10 students were analyzed. Surgery time decreased in a nonlinear manner as student experience increased for castration of adult or pediatric dogs and ovariohysterectomy of pediatric dogs and adult or pediatric cats. Surgery time decreased in a linear manner as experience increased for ovariohysterectomy of adult dogs. CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE To the authors’ knowledge, this was the first study to map surgery times for common surgical procedures consecutively performed by veterinary students. Results clearly indicated the value of repetition to improve surgical skills (as measured by surgery time) during a 3-week period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)322-332
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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