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Can skills assessment on a virtual reality trainer predict a surgical trainee’s talent in laparoscopic surgery?

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A number of studies have investigated several aspects of feasibility and validity of performance assessments with virtual reality surgical simulators. However, the validity of performance assessments is limited by the reliability of such measurements, and some issues of reliability still need to be addressed. This study aimed to evaluate the hypothesis that test subjects show logarithmic performance curves on repetitive trials for a component task of laparoscopic cholecystectomy on a virtual reality simulator, and that interindividual differences in performance after considerable training are significant. According to kinesiologic theory, logarithmic performance curves are expected and an individual’s learning capacity for a specific task can be extrapolated, allowing quantification of a person’s innate ability to develop task-specific skills.


In this study, 20 medical students at the University of Basel Medical School performed five trials of a standardized task on the LS 500 virtual reality simulator for laparoscopic surgery. Task completion time, number of errors, economy of instrument movements, and maximum speed of instrument movements were measured.


The hypothesis was confirmed by the fact that the performance curves for some of the simulator measurements were very close to logarithmic curves, and there were significant interindividual differences in performance at the end of the repetitive trials.


Assessment of perceptual motor skills and the innate ability of an individual with no prior experience in laparoscopic surgery to develop such skills using the LS 500 VR surgical simulator is feasible and reliable.

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Correspondence to R. Rosenthal.

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Rosenthal, R., Gantert, W.A., Scheidegger, D. et al. Can skills assessment on a virtual reality trainer predict a surgical trainee’s talent in laparoscopic surgery?. Surg Endosc 20, 1286–1290 (2006).

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