Since dermatologists routinely perform surgery in an outpatient setting, ensuring that dermatology trainees are provided with opportunities to develop sufficient proficiency in excisional surgery and suture technique is paramount. The objectives of this study are to assess trainee preference for silicone-based synthetic skin compared with porcine skin as a surgical training medium and to assess the ability of trainees to successfully demonstrate basic surgical skills using the simulated skin model. Participants were a convenience sample of dermatology residents from the greater Chicago area, who were asked to perform an elliptical excision and bilayered repair on a silicone-based synthetic skin model. Residents were then surveyed regarding their satisfaction with the model. Four blinded dermatologist raters evaluated digital photographs obtained during the performance of the procedures and graded the execution of each maneuver using a surgical task checklist. Nineteen residents were enrolled. Residents were more likely to prefer pig skin to simulated skin for overall use (p = 0.040) and tissue repair (p = 0.018), but the nominal preference for tissue handling was nonsignificant (p = 0.086). There was no significant difference between satisfaction with pig skin versus synthetic skin with regard to excision experience (p = 0.82). The majority of residents (10/19) performed all surgical checklist tasks correctly. Of those residents who did not perform all steps correctly, many had difficulty obtaining adequate dermal eversion and wound approximation. Synthetic skin may be conveniently and safely utilized for hands-on surgical practice. Further refinement may be necessary to make synthetic skin comparable in feel and use to animal skin.
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