Surgery Sim Lab Recipes

What follows are "recipes" developed by the Instructors in the U of U School of Medicine Surgery Simulation Lab to help students practice on inexpensive surrogates to build skills and confidence.

Suture Block Model icon
Suture Block
Suturing is one of the most commonly taught skills in surgery. This demand makes model durability one of the most important features. After trying multiple commercial models priced at $25/piece, we developed this low cost version from simple items. 25 models lasted the full academic year, and served eight rotations of medical students and residents for less than the cost of two commercial models!

To properly create layers of skin, stabilizing fabric is used. It provides a firm layer on each side of a cushioned layer and can be purchased for <$8-enough fabric to create approximately 12 blocks. Coban cover the ends of each block to prevent slivers and were obtained in the OR. If prep sponges were not available (subcutaneous layer), we purchased a twin-size camping foam mattress and cut it down. Wood and Velcro were purchased from home improvement/office stores.


  • Create a low cost laceration repair model that is durable, reusable, and replicates the layers of human skin.
  • Create a model that will withstand high utilization and meet the curricular requirements for medical students and residents for a variety of suturing and knot tying techniques.

Prior to using the low cost suture blocks, we were unable to allow medical students to take supplies home for practice. This model has allowed us to create enough suture blocks for students to check out for the duration of their clerkship, and still have enough available in the skills lab for resident or student practice. With a simple replacement of the material and foam layer, a new suture block is created. Also, it is not a significant financial loss if blocks are not returned at the end of the rotation. Feedback from students and residents alike is that the model is durable, realistically replicates the layers of the skin, and handles appropriately with instrumentations. Residents have lauded it as an excellent tool for medical student teaching.

Suture Block model developed by: Peter Bartline MD, Ruth Braga MSN, William Peche MD, Daniel Vargo MD.

Brief Description:
Our anastomosis model is easy to construct, can be used multiple times, and accomplishes the same objectives stated in the ACS/APDS Surgical Skills Curriculum, using items from the operating room (OR), home improvement store, and online.

1- Provide trainees with a low cost, mid-fidelity model on which to practice vascular anastomoses in our skills lab.
2- Design a model to effectively bridge the gap between transplant and vascular surgery faculty expectations and resident proficiency in vascular suturing.
3- Provide a means for vascular surgical faculty to teach vascular surgical technique in a way that accommodates busy schedules.

Since the creation of our low cost model series, this model is one that has had the highest utilization. Residents and faculty have both appreciated the increased preparation that it has provided for residents going into the OR. Once finished, if the resident does not like their work, they simply cut the ¼” Penrose drain off, move the towels over, and try again. The results are a string of anastomoses along the 1” Penrose drain, allowing residents and faculty to critique, evaluate, and visualize consistent error or progressive improvement. Used as an introductory step for our Deep Anastomosis Model, residents can learn and master vascular surgical technique on a flat surface before trying to perform it in a hole.

Model developed by: Peter Bartline MD, Ruth Braga MSN, William Peche MD, Daniel Vargo MD

Sim Lab model #3