Gamers prove equal to surgeons in operating robotic surgery tools

Ars Technica » Scientific Method 2012-11-19

A maternal nag familiar to the ears of many young gamers usually follows the lines of "you're wasting your life in front of a console." Browbeaten controller wielders rejoice—a new study from the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) has proven the superior hand-eye coordination skills honed from hours of joystick-based gaming are the same talents required to master the world's most advanced robotic surgery tools.

The study sought to identify the developmental effect video games have on training future surgeons. "A new era has started," explained Sami Kilic, lead author of the study and associate professor and director of minimally invasive gynecology at UTMB. Kilic was inspired to conduct the study after seeing his son easily take control of a robotic surgery simulator at a medical convention. "Robotic surgery has been implemented in the medical field recently—most of the physicians were not trained for it. We had to come up with an idea of how to train our trainers."

A group of physicians studying at UTMB—a world leader in robotic surgery—was put up against US high school and college students in a series of robotic surgery simulation tests. The study measured participants on 20 different skills, including how steady their grasping abilities were when performing surgical tasks such as passing a needle or lifting surgical instruments. There were 32 different teaching steps required to operate the robotic surgery simulator—a training tool with dual hand-operated controllers. Real-time surgical movements are displayed on its video monitor.

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