Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Gamers Make Better Robotic Surgeons

If you're about to have surgery, like a hysterectomy or a prostatectomy, chances are you'll be having robotic-assisted surgery, where the surgeon operates the controls of a robot that preforms the actual surgical procedure. And while you're thinking about your upcoming operation, and the surgeon who will have your life in their hands, you're probably hoping and reassuring yourself that you've got the best possible medical professional at your side. You were impressed that they graduated from the Ivy League, attended the best medical schools, are board certified, and have preformed a large number of the exact procedure you're having with a high rate of success. But did you check their high scores on the latest video games?

Robotic Surgery Simulator at the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists Conference
Robotic Surgery Simulator at the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists Conference
A new report presented at the American Gynecologic Laparoscopists’ 41st Annual Global Congress on Minimally Invasive Gynecology, written by researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch, concludes that:
"The superior hand-eye coordination and hand skills gained from hours of repetitive joystick maneuvers mimic the abilities needed to perform today’s most technologically advanced robotic surgeries." 
The researchers pitted non-video game playing resident physician surgeons, against high school and college students who played 2-4 hours of video games every day. The subjects preformed virtual robotic surgical procedures on training simulators, with their skills and competency levels measured across more than 30 robotic surgery teaching steps, and 20 different skill parameters. The results? You guessed it, on average, the students matched or exceeded the skills of the resident physicians when it came to precise hand-eye coordination tasks like the amount of tension to place on surgical instruments, the accuracy level of suturing, or lifting different instruments with the robotic arms.

Dr. Kilic, University of Texas Medical Branch, Robotic Training Simulator Study

The Univeristy of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, a leader in minimally invasive and robotic surgery, conducted the research in an effort to find new ways for people to prepare themselves for the the increasing demand for physicians trained in robotic surgery. The inspiration for the study came when Dr. Kilic witnessed his young son testing out the robotic surgery simulator while setting up for a presentation. With zero medical or robotic training, the boy, an avid video games player, was able to quickly master the controls of, and effectively preform operations with, the robotic surgery training simulator. With plans to incorporate the results of their study into their training curriculum, UTMB is one of a number of academic medical centers that are developing standardized programs for students and physicians to train for robotic surgery on robotic surgery training simulators.

So the next time your kid is playing hour after hour of the latest video game instead of doing their homework, maybe think twice before giving them a hard time. Are they really wasting time playing mindless video games, or are they developing the necessary hand-eye coordination skills that will be required to preform the robotic surgeries of the future?

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