Breast ductal endoscopy is a relatively new diagnostic method with ever growing importance in the work-up of patients with bloody nipple discharge. The ability to perform ductal endoscopy is very important and useful for breast fellows. Learning curve in breast ductal endoscopy remains a terra incognita, since no systematic studies have addressed this topic. The purpose of this study is to determine the point (number of procedures during training) beyond which ductal endoscopy is successfully performed.
Ten breast fellows received training in our Breast Unit. For the training process, an ex vivo model was adopted. Fellows were trained on 20 surgical specimens derived from modified radical mastectomy for breast cancer. The target of the education program was to acquire proficiency in performing ductoscopy. The achievement of four consecutively successful ductal endoscopies was determined as the point beyond which proficiency had been achieved. The number of procedures needed for the achievement of proficiency as defined above ranged between 9 and 17 procedures. The median value was 13 procedures; i.e. 50% of trainees had achieved proficiency at the 13th procedure or earlier.
These pilot findings point to approximately 13 procedures as a point beyond which ductal endoscopy is successfully performed; studies on a larger number of fellows are nevertheless needed. Further research, focusing on the learning curves of different training models of ductal endoscopy, seems desirable.