Gaming Improves Surgeon Performance

Gaming Improves Surgeon Performance

A recent study has found that doctors who spent at least three hours a week playing video games made about 37 per cent fewer mistakes in laparoscopic surgery and performed the task 27 per cent faster than their counterparts who did not play video games.

I use the same hand-eye coordination to play video games as I use for surgery, said Dr. James "Butch" Rosser, 49, who demonstrated the results of his study at Beth Israel Medical Center.
Laparoscopic surgery utilizes a tiny camera and instruments controlled by joysticks outside the body and can be performed on any part of the body, from an appendix to the colon and gall bladder.
This type of surgery offers the advantage of being minimally intrusive and is carried out by making tiny keyhole incisions, inserting a mini-video camera that sends images to an external video screen, while the surgical tools are remote-controlled by the surgeon watching the screen. Surgeons now have video simulations available in order to practice their techniques.
Rosser describes the necessary skills for laparoscopic surgery as tying your shoelaces with 3-foot-long chopsticks.

The study on whether good video game skills translate into surgical ability was carried out by researchers with Beth Israel and the National Institute on Media and the Family at Iowa State University. It was based on testing 33 fellow doctors - 12 attending physicians and 21 medical school residents who participated from May to August 2003.

Each doctor completed three video game tasks that tested such factors as motor skills, reaction time and hand-eye coordination.

The study landmarks the arrival of Generation X into medicine, said the study's co-author, Dr. Paul J. Lynch, a Beth Israel anesthesiologist who has studied the effects of video games for years.

Kurt Squire, a University of Wisconsin researcher of video game effects on learning, said that with a video game, you can definitely develop timing and a sense of touch, as well as a very intuitive feel for manipulating devices.

Squire, who was not involved in Rosser's project, said applying such games to surgery training could play a key role in preparing medical health professionals.
Beth Israel is now experimenting with applying the findings.

Rosser has developed a course called Top Gun, in which surgical trainees warm up their coordination, agility and accuracy with a video game before entering the operating room.

It's like a good football player, Rosser said, you have to warm up first.