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Video games may boost surgical skill, tests find

Feb. 19, 2007
Courtesy JAMA and Archives Journals
and World Science staff

A small study has linked vi­d­eo game skill to bet­ter pe­r­for­mance in sim­u­lat­ed tests of la­pa­ro­sco­pic sur­gery, a com­mon type of op­er­a­tion done with the aid of a vi­d­eo screen.

“Video games may be a prac­ti­cal teach­ing tool to help train sur­geons” in such work, the re­search­ers wrote in a pa­pe­r de­scrib­ing the stu­dy, pub­lished in the Feb­ru­ary is­sue of the jour­nal Ar­chives of Sur­gery.

The sur­gery in­volves mak­ing a small cut and in­sert­ing an in­stru­ment called a la­paro­scope. This has an at­tached vi­d­eo cam­era that pro­vides a view of ab­dom­i­nal and pel­vic struc­tures.

The investigators were quick to note that vid­e­o games have con­sid­er­a­ble  down­sides, includ­ing low­er grades in school; ag­gres­sive thoughts, emo­tions, and ac­tions; and, in ex­cess, “child­hood obes­i­ty, mus­cu­lar and skele­tal dis­or­ders, and even ep­i­lep­tic seizures.”

In the surgery study, the researchers, James C. Rosser of Beth Is­ra­el Med­i­cal Cen­ter in New York and col­leagues, asked 12 sur­geons and 21 sur­gi­cal res­i­dents about their vi­d­eo game-play­ing habits. 

They then scored the participants in a one-and-a-half day course that tests for speed and er­rors dur­ing sim­u­lat­ed sur­gery drills, called the Rosser Top Gun La­paro­scopic Skills and Su­tur­ing Pro­gram. Dur­ing the stu­dy, the sur­geons al­so played three vi­d­eo games for 25 min­utes while the in­ves­ti­ga­tors as­sessed their play­ing skills.

Fif­teen par­ti­ci­pants re­ported nev­er play­ing vi­d­eo games; nine re­ported play­ing more than three hours per week at the height of their game play­ing; the rest re­ported in­ter­me­diate amounts of play.

“Sur­geons who had played vi­d­eo games in the past for more than three hours per week made 37 pe­rcent few­er er­rors, were 27 pe­rcent faster and scored 42 pe­rcent bet­ter over­all than sur­geons who nev­er played vi­d­eo games,” the au­thors wrote. Those in the top third of vid­e­o-game skill made 47 pe­rcent few­er mis­takes, worked 39 pe­rcent faster and scored 41 pe­rcent bet­ter over­all than those in the bot­tom third, the study found. 

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A small study has linked video game skill to better performance in simulated tests of laparoscopic surgery, a type of minimally invasive operation done with the aid of a video screen. “Video games may be a practical teaching tool to help train surgeons” in such work, the researchers wrote in a paper describing the study, published in the February issue of the journal Archives of Surgery. Laparoscopic surgery involves making a small cut and inserting an instrument called a laparoscope, which has an attached video camera. This provides a view of abdominal and pelvic structures. James C. Rosser of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York and colleagues asked 12 surgeons and 21 surgical residents about their video game-playing habits. They then assessed their performance at the Rosser Top Gun Laparoscopic Skills and Suturing Program, a one-and-a-half day course that scores surgeons on time and errors during simulated surgery drills. During the study, the surgeons also played three video games for 25 minutes while the invest igators assessed their playing skills. Fifteen partici pants reported never playing video games; nine reported playing more than three hours per week at the height of their game playing; the rest reported intermediate amounts of play. “Surgeons who had played video games in the past for more than three hours per week made 37 percent fewer errors, were 27 percent faster and scored 42 percent better overall than surgeons who never played video games,” the authors wrote. Those in the top third of video-game skill made 47 percent fewer mistakes, worked 39 percent faster and scored 41 percent better overall than those in the bottom third, the study found. “Training curricula that include video games may help thin the technical interface between surgeons and screen-mediated applications, such as laparoscopic surgery,” the authors concluded.