Techniques in Coloproctology

, Volume 22, Issue 12, pp 965–975 | Cite as

The effect of proctoring on the learning curve of transanal minimally invasive surgery for local excision of rectal neoplasms

  • S. H. E. M. ClermontsEmail author
  • Y. T. van Loon
  • J. Stijns
  • H. Pottel
  • D. K. Wasowicz
  • D. D. E. Zimmerman
Original Article



The current method of choice for local resection of benign and selected malignant rectal tumors is transanal endoscopic microsurgery. Transanal minimally invasive surgery (TAMIS) yields similar oncological results and better patient reported outcomes when compared to transanal endoscopic micro surgery. However, due to the technical complexity of TAMIS, a significant learning curve has been suggested. Data on the surgical learning curve are limited. The aim of our study was to investigate surgeon specific learning curves for TAMIS procedures for the local excision of selected rectal tumors, and analyze the effects of proctoring on operating time and outcome.


The current study was prospective of all TAMIS procedures performed by two surgeons from October 2010 to November 2017. Margin positivity, specimen fragmentation, adverse events and operative time were evaluated with a cumulative sum analysis to determine the number of procedures required to reach proficiency. Cumulative sum (CUSUM) analysis was used to determine trends in changes over time.


The earliest adopter, surgeon A, performed 103 procedures, was not proctored and developed the standardized institutional program. Surgeon B, performed 26 cases, had the benefit of a proctorship and availability of a standardized program. The CUSUM curve for operative time showed a change after 36 cases for surgeon A and after 10 cases for surgeon B. For margin positivity proficiency was reached after 31 and 6 cases for surgeon A and B, respectively. The complications curve for surgeon A showed a three-phase learning curve with a decrease after the 26th case whereas surgeon B only had one (3.8%) complication in the learning phase with no change point in the CUSUM curve. Comparing pre- and post-proficiency periods there was a decrease in operating time for both surgeon A (84.4 ± 47.3 to 55.9 ± 30.1 min) and surgeon B (90.6 ± 53 ± 26.5 min; p < 0.001). Overall margin positivity rates decreased non significantly from 21.7 to 4.8% (p = 0.23). Complications were higher in the pre-proficiency period (21.7% vs. 13.0%; p = 0.02). Surgeon A had significantly more postoperative complications in pre-proficiency phase when compared to surgeon B (25% vs. none, p < 0.001), in the post-proficiency phase there was no statistically significant difference between both surgeons (p = 0.08).


Our results suggest that to reach satisfactory results for TAMIS, 18–31 procedures are required. Standardized institutional operative protocols together with proficient proctorship may contribute to a shorter learning curve with fewer cases (6–10) required to reach proficiency.


TAMIS Transanal minimally invasive surgery Learning curve TEMS Rectal cancer 



The research for this manuscript was not financially supported and none of the authors had any relevant financial relationships.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

Approval of the institutional review board or ethics committee was not required because of the retrospective and observational character of this study.

Informed consent

For this type of study formal consent is not required.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SurgeryElisabeth-TweeSteden HospitalTilburgThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Public Health and Primary CareCatholic University LeuvenKortrijkBelgium
  3. 3.Department of SurgeryMaastricht University Medical CentreMaastrichtThe Netherlands

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