Gamers better at robotic surgery than doctors: study

Gamers better at robotic surgery than doctors: study

Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston in the US discovered that both high school sophomores who played video games for an average of two hours a day and college students (who played for four hours a day) were equal to and often outperformed residents in terms of precise hand-eye coordination, the amount of tension applied to instruments, and the steadiness of their grasping skills when performing surgical tasks such as suturing, passing a needle or lifting surgical instruments via robotic arms.

The small study of 29 subjects, which tested competency in more than 20 different skill parameters and 32 different teaching steps on a robotic surgery simulator found that the nine high school students (average age 16), came out on top, followed by nine college students from Texas A&M University, leaving the 11 UTMB residents -- who had an average age of 31 -- in third place.

"The inspiration for this study first developed when I saw my son, an avid video game player, take the reins of a robotic surgery simulator at a medical convention," said Dr. Sami Kilic, lead author of the study and associate professor and director of minimally invasive gynecology in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at UTMB. "With no formal training, he was immediately at ease with the technology and the type of movements required to operate the robot."

However, when the subjects were tasked with performing a complex simulated laparoscopic surgery without robot assistance, the resident physicians, as expected, outperformed the competition by some distance.

The study, which was presented to the American Gynecologic Laparoscopists' 41st Annual Global Congress on Minimally Invasive Gynecology in Las Vegas, raises a number of interesting issues as to the future of medical training and how best to develop the skills of a future generation of doctors who are technology natives.

As Kilic explains: "Most physicians in practice today never learned robotic surgery in medical school. However, as we see students with enhanced visual-spatial experience and hand-eye coordination that are a result of the technologically savvy world they are immersed in, we should rethink how best to teach this generation."