• laparoscopic radical prostatectomy;
  • modular surgical training;
  • learning curve


To develop a modular training scheme which enabled the use of individual steps of laparoscopic radical prostatectomy (RP) for teaching and training surgeons with varied experience, including residents with no experience in open RP, as in extending laparoscopic surgery to more complex operations like RP, the proper training of urologists is crucial.


The technique of endoscopic extraperitoneal RP (EERP) was divided into 12 individual steps of differing complexity. The levels of difficulty were called ‘modules’ and graded according to their requisite skills from module 1 (lowest level of difficulty) to module 5 (highest level). Based on this modular system we established a training programme whereby the trainee learns the procedure in a mentor-initiated schedule. During each training operation the trainee only performs the modules (steps) of the operation, which correspond with his or her actual skill level. The mentor performs all the other steps, with the trainee assisting. Four trainees with different surgical experience participated in the study.


After a phase of assisting and camera holding during EERP, the trainees entered the modular training programme and required 32–43 procedures until they were considered to be competent. An analysis of the first 25–50 procedures done independently by the trainee showed mean operative times of 176–193 min and a transfusion rate of 1.3%. Complications during and after EERP requiring re-intervention were one each of recto-urethral fistula, haemorrhage, symptomatic lymphocele and anastomotic leak. The positive margin rate for pT2 disease was 12.2% and for pT3 tumours 37%.


The modular concept for teaching EERP is an attractive concept, which overcomes many of the problems involved in complex laparoscopic procedures. Based on a highly standardized technique, this concept offers a short learning curve; it enables training on different sites in cooperation with a high-volume centre, and it makes it possible to start with this complex procedure as a beginner or with no experience in open RP.