Introduction Training procedural skills in GI endoscopy once focused on threshold numbers. As threshold numbers poorly reflect individual competence, the focus gradually shifts towards a more individual approach. Tools to assess and document individual learning progress are being developed and incorporated in dedicated training curricula. However, there is a lack of consensus and training guidelines differ worldwide, which reflects uncertainties on optimal set-up of a training programme.
Aims The primary aim of this systematic review was to evaluate the currently available literature for the use of training and assessment methods in GI endoscopy. Second, we aimed to identify the role of simulator-based training as well as the value of continuous competence assessment in patient-based training. Third, we aimed to propose a structured training curriculum based on the presented evidence.
Methods A literature search was carried out in the available medical and educational literature databases. The results were systematically reviewed and studies were included using a predefined protocol with independent assessment by two reviewers and a final consensus round.
Results The literature search yielded 5846 studies. Ninety-four relevant studies on simulators, assessment methods, learning curves and training programmes for GI endoscopy met the inclusion criteria. Twenty-seven studies on simulator validation were included. Good validity was demonstrated for four simulators. Twenty-three studies reported on simulator training and learning curves, including 17 randomised control trials. Increased performance on a virtual reality (VR) simulator was shown in all studies. Improved performance in patient-based assessment was demonstrated in 14 studies. Four studies reported on the use of simulators for assessment of competence levels. Current simulators lack the discriminative power to determine competence levels in patient-based endoscopy. Eight out of 14 studies on colonoscopy, endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography and endosonography reported on learning curves in patient-based endoscopy and proved the value of this approach for measuring performance. Ten studies explored the numbers needed to gain competence, but the proposed thresholds varied widely between them. Five out of nine studies describing the development and evaluation of assessment tools for GI endoscopy provided insight into the performance of endoscopists. Five out of seven studies proved that intense training programmes result in good performance.
Conclusions The use of validated VR simulators in the early training setting accelerates the learning of practical skills. Learning curves are valuable for the continuous assessment of performance and are more relevant than threshold numbers. Future research will strengthen these conclusions by evaluating simulation-based as well as patient-based training in GI endoscopy. A complete curriculum with the assessment of competence throughout training needs to be developed for all GI endoscopy procedures.