Natural orifice translumenal endoscopic surgery (NOTES) navigation performance: a pilot study comparing surgeons and gastroenterologists
BACKGROUND: As an emerging surgical paradigm, NOTES is currently performed using conventional flexible endoscopes. Gastroenterologists are experts in handling this instrument; however, NOTES involves manipulation of the endoscope outside the lumen of the gastrointestinal tract. Surgeons are used to operating within the spatial environment of the peritoneal cavity. The aim of this study was to investigate whether either surgeons or gastroenterologists are superior at navigating the endoscope in a NOTES environment using the Imperial College Natural Orifice Simulated surgical Environment (NOSsE) as an assessment tool. METHODS: Nine novices, 5 gastroenterologists and 4 laparoscopic surgeons were recruited to navigate through a series of targets in the NOSsE phantom. End-points were time taken to complete the course and number of targets successfully visualised. RESULTS: Gastroenterologists and surgeons completed the course faster (p < 0.001) and revealed more targets than novices (p < 0.001). Overall, surgeons completed the course in less time than gastroenterologists (mean time 228 sec vs. 134 sec; p = 0.172) and visualised more targets (mean 8.83 vs. 7.53; p = 0.217) although neither reached statistical significance. CONCLUSIONS: The results of this pilot study suggest that surgeons are not disadvantaged when it comes to navigating an endoscope within a simulated NOTES environment compared to gastroenterologists. Therefore, as appears to be the current practice, it is acceptable for surgical teams to perform initial NOTES studies, provided they possess adequate skill, appropriate laboratory experience and ethical review board approval. With the evolution in surgical tools, we are likely to see improved instrumentation to aid in navigation in NOTES.