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CONTEXT: Live surgical broadcast (LSB), also known as live surgery, has become a popular format for many types of surgical education meetings. However, concerns have been raised in relation to patient safety, ethical issues, and the actual educational value of LSB. OBJECTIVE: To summarize current evidence on LSB with a focus on the risks of complications and the educational impact. EVIDENCE ACQUISITION: We performed a systematic review of the literature according to Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines to identify studies up to December 2020. We identified original articles reporting on patient outcomes, educational value, current use, and development of LSB. We also interrogated surgical society guidelines for position statements on LSB. EVIDENCE SYNTHESIS: Our literature search identified 46 studies spanning six surgical specialties, with urology being the most frequent. Approximately half of the studies reported on outcomes of surgical procedures during LSB. In urology, the few comparative studies available did not suggest higher complication rates in LSB, whereas data for other surgical fields highlighted evidence of worse outcomes. Four studies assessed the educational value of LSB via survey administration, for which the evidence is limited and of low quality. Thirteen guidelines and position statements on live surgery were identified among major surgical societies, including the European Association of Urology (EAU). Some surgical societies have expressly prohibited the use of LSB at their major meetings. The perspective of surgeons performing and/or attending live surgical sessions was evaluated in six studies, and four studies looked at urologists' perception of LSB compared to semi-LSB. Limitations of this systematic review include the limited number of studies available, the low quality of the evidence, and data heterogeneity. CONCLUSIONS: Evidence regarding outcomes of LSB is limited. Almost all the studies do not show a higher risk of complications or worse outcomes for patients undergoing a procedure during LSB. Only one study on gastrointestinal surgery reported that LSB outcomes were worse. Ongoing concerns have led to specific guidelines by several scientific societies, including the EAU, with the ultimate aim of minimizing surgical risks and maximizing patient safety. PATIENT SUMMARY: Live surgery events are often part of surgical conferences. Data in the literature show mixed outcomes for operations performed during live surgery events, but with no increase in complication rates. Safety and ethical concerns remain. Other educational tools, such as prerecorded videos and live surgery transmission from the home institution of the operating surgeon might become preferred options in the future. This review was prospectively registered on the PROSPERO website (, registration number CRD42020194023).

Original publication




Journal article


Eur Urol Focus

Publication Date



Live case demonstration, Live surgery, Live surgical broadcast