Surgical Practice: Evidence or Anecdote

Brent S. Izu, Benjamin Monson, Alex G. Little, Paula M. Termuhlen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objectives: Our objective is to highlight a few surgical practices that are not based on evidence but are still taught in surgical education, and to assess our experience with these practices. Design: We identified 3 practices (clamping of nasogastric tubes before removal, bowel preparation before elective colon resection, and elective sigmoid colectomy following 2 bouts of diverticulitis), identified the data supporting each practice, and administered a survey to faculty and residents at our institution. Setting: Wright State University Department of Surgery, Boonshoft School of Medicine, Dayton, Ohio. Participants: Twenty-one faculty and 35 residents responded to the survey. Results: No studies were found relating to clamping nasogastric tubes before removal. Seven faculty (33%) and 11 residents (31%) used this practice. Two faculty (10%) and 0 residents felt this was an evidence-based practice. Faculty were more likely to have reviewed the evidence (85% vs 40%, p < 0.001). Level 2 evidence has shown bowel preparation did not improve outcomes relating to anastomotic leak, wound infection, or septic complications in elective colon resection. Twenty faculty (95%) and 34 residents (97%) used this practice. Faculty were more likely to believe this to be evidence-based (85% vs 49%, p = 0.01). There has been no level 1 or 2 evidence showing that sigmoid colectomy following 2 bouts of diverticulitis improves morbidity or mortality. Fourteen faculty (70%) and 26 residents (76%) reported using this practice. Twelve faculty (60%) and 21 residents (60%) felt this was evidence-based. Conclusions: Frequent use of surgical practices without evidence support can create a misperception that such practices are evidence-based. Faculty are more likely to change a practice after obtaining continuing medical education, suggesting that residents may need validation by faculty practice of evidence-based procedures before incorporation into their clinical care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)281-284
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of surgical education
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Medical Knowledge
  • Practice-Based Learning and Improvement
  • Systems-Based Practice
  • diverticulitis
  • evidence-based medicine
  • mechanical bowel preparation
  • nasogastric tube
  • surgical education


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