Background: Proficiency of the operating surgeon is one of the most critical factors potentially associated with reductions in complications and surgery-related mortality. With video-rating systems having shown potential for assessing laparoscopic surgeons’ proficiency, the Endoscopic Surgical Skill Qualification System (ESSQS) was developed by the Japan Society for Endoscopic Surgery to subjectively assess the proficiency of laparoscopic surgeons by rating applicants’ non-edited case videos. We conducted a study to evaluate how ESSQS skill-qualified (SQ) surgeon involvement influences short-term outcomes of laparoscopic gastrectomy performed for gastric cancer. Methods: Data from the National Clinical Database regarding laparoscopic distal and total gastrectomy performed for gastric cancer between January 2016 and December 2018 were analyzed. Operative mortality, defined as 30-day mortality or 90-day in-hospital mortality, and anastomotic leakage rates were compared per involvement vs. non-involvement of an SQ surgeon. Outcomes were also compared per involvement of a gastrectomy-, colectomy-, or cholecystectomy-qualified surgeon. The association between the area of qualification and operative mortality/anastomotic leakage was also analyzed with a generalized estimating equation logistic regression model used to account for patient-level risk factors and institutional differences. Results: Of 104,093 laparoscopic distal gastrectomies, 52,143 were suitable for inclusion in the study; 30,366 (58.2%) were performed by an SQ surgeon. Of 43,978 laparoscopic total gastrectomies, 10,326 were suitable for inclusion; 6501 (63.0%) were performed by an SQ surgeon. Gastrectomy-qualified surgeons outperformed non-SQ surgeons in terms of both operative mortality and anastomotic leakage. They also outperformed cholecystectomy- and colectomy-qualified surgeons in terms of operative mortality or anastomotic leakage in distal and total gastrectomy, respectively. Conclusion: The ESSQS appears to discriminate laparoscopic surgeons who can be expected to achieve significantly improved gastrectomy outcomes.
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