, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 1294-1297
Date: 31 Oct 2007

Should surgical novices trade their retractors for joysticks? Videogame experience decreases the time needed to acquire surgical skills

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Abstract

Background

Video game experience (VGE) has been identified as a possible predictive factor for surgical skill. We hypothesized that surgical novices with previous VGE would acquire new surgical skills faster than those without.

Methods

Fourth-year medical students (M4) and first-year surgical residents (PG-1) completed a survey asking about standard demographic data and previous VGE. Gamers had high VGE, defined as more than 3 h per week of videogame playing. Nongamers had little or no VGE. Both groups trained to proficiency on two tasks (AcquirePlace and Traversal) of the MIST-VR simulator, with proficiency defined as meeting previously validated criteria on two consecutive trials. The number of trials required to achieve proficiency for each task was recorded.

Results

The 26 participants included 11 M4s and 15 PG-1s: 17 males (8 gamers/9 nongamers) and 9 females (3 gamers/6 nongamers), mean age 27.8 years. There were no differences in time to proficiency between the M4 and PG-1 residents, and there were no significant differences in the relative number of gamers per gender. All participants eventually met proficiency criteria. The 11 gamers reached proficiency more quickly than the 15 nongamers (median 0 trials versus 6 trials, p = 0.01). Gamers scored lower than nongamers on their initial attempts. Women overall took longer to reach proficiency than did men (median 10 trials versus 0 trials, p = 0.002). When stratified according to VGE, female nongamers took longer to reach proficiency than male nongamers (median 11 trials versus 1 trial, p = 0.006) but among gamers, there was no difference between females and males (median 0 trials versus 0.5 trials, NS).

Conclusion

Previous VGE shortens time to achieve proficiency on two tasks on a validated surgical simulator. The possibility that VGE may ameliorate gender differences in length of time required to acquire surgical skills should be explored further.