Playing to your skills: a randomized controlled trial evaluating a dedicated video game for minimally invasive surgery

Cuan M. Harrington, Vishwa Chaitanya, Patrick Dicker, Oscar Traynor, Dara O. Kavanagh
Published: Published in the Surgical Endoscopy journal, February 14, 2018
BACKGROUND: Video gaming demands elements of visual attention, hand–eye coordination and depth perception which may be contiguous with laparoscopic skill development. General video gaming has demonstrated altered cortical plasticity and improved baseline/acquisition of minimally invasive skills. The present study aimed to evaluate for skill acquisition associated with a commercially available dedicated laparoscopic video game (Underground) and its unique (laparoscopic-like) controller for the Nintendo®Wii U™ console.
METHODS: This single-blinded randomized controlled study was conducted with laparoscopically naive student volunteers of limited (< 3 h/week) video gaming backgrounds. Baseline laparoscopic skills were assessed using four basic tasks on the Virtual Reality (VR) simulator (LAP MentorTM, 3D systems, Colorado, USA). Twenty participants were andomized to two groups; Group A was requested to complete 5 h of video gaming (Underground) per week and Group B to avoid gaming beyond their normal frequency. After 4 weeks participants were reassessed using the same VR tasks. Changes in simulator performances were assessed for each group and for intergroup variances using mixed model regression.
RESULTS: Significant inter- and intragroup performances were present for the video gaming and controls across four basic tasks. The video gaming group demonstrated significant improvements in thirty-one of the metrics examined including dominant (p ≤ 0.004) and non-dominant (p < 0.050) instrument movements, pathlengths (p ≤ 0.040), time taken (p ≤ 0.021) and end score [p ≤ 0.046, (task-dependent)]. The control group demonstrated improvements in fourteen measures. The video gaming group demonstrated significant (p < 0.05) improvements compared to the control in five metrics. Despite encouraged gameplay and the console in participants’ domiciles, voluntary engagement was lower than directed due to factors including: game enjoyment (33.3%), lack of available time (22.2%) and entertainment distractions (11.1%).
CONCLUSION: Our work revealed significant value in training using a dedicated laparoscopic video game for acquisition of virtual laparoscopic skills. This novel serious game may provide foundations for future surgical developments on game consoles in the home environment.