Background: We hypothesized that the Endoscopic Surgical Skill Qualification System (ESSQS) can shorten operative time, resulting in a decrease in postoperative morbidity. Here, we aimed to clarify whether ESSQS-qualified surgeons could decrease the incidence of complications. Methods: Between January 2009 and June 2019, 1042 patients diagnosed with both clinical and pathological Stage ≤ III gastric cancer and undergoing LG were enrolled. In all LG procedures involving ESSQS-qualified surgeons, these served as the operator or the instructive assistant. The short-term outcomes were retrospectively compared between the ESSQS-qualified and the non-ESSQS-qualified surgeons using a propensity-score matched analysis. Results: After propensity-score matching, 321 patients were included in each group. No significant differences were observed in morbidity rate, and length of hospitalization following surgery, although the non-ESSQS-qualified surgeon group had a significantly longer total operative time (Non-ESSQS-qualified group, 368 [170–779] min vs. ESSQS-qualified group, 316 [147–772] min; p < 0.001), and larger estimated blood loss (Non-ESSQS-qualified group, 28 [0–702] mL vs. ESSQS-qualified group 25, [0–1069] mL; p = 0.042). Multivariate analysis revealed that operative time ≥ 360 min (OR 1.818 [1.069–3.094], p = 0.027) was identified as the only significant independent risk factor determining morbidity. Conclusions: The incidence of postoperative morbidity did not differ between patients operated by the qualified and nonqualified surgeons, as long as ESSQS-qualified surgeons provide intraoperative instructions.
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