Visual spatial ability for surgical trainees: implications for learning endoscopic, laparoscopic surgery and other image-guided procedures



In image-guided procedures, a high level of visual spatial ability may be an advantage for surgical trainees. We assessed the visual spatial ability of surgical trainees.


Two hundred and thirty-nine surgical trainees and 61 controls were tested on visual spatial ability using 3 standardised tests, the Card Rotation, Cube Comparison and Map-Planning Tests.


Two hundred and twenty-one, 236 and 236 surgical trainees and 61 controls completed the Card Rotation test, Cube Comparison test and Map-Planning test, respectively. Two percent of surgical trainees performed statistically significantly worse than their peers on card rotation and map-planning test, > 1% on Cube Comparison test. Surgical trainees performed statistically significantly better than controls on all tests.


Two percent of surgical trainees performed statistically significantly worse than their peers on visual spatial ability. The implication of this finding is unclear, further research is required that can look at the learning and educational portfolios of these trainees who perform poorly on visual spatial ability, and ascertain if they are struggling to learn skills for image-guided procedures.

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No funding including equipment was received from any source in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors. No funding was received from any source either pharmaceutical or other agency for the drafting of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Patrick Henn.

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Patrick Henn, Anthony G Gallagher, Emmeline Nugent, Neal E Seymour, Randy S Haluck, Hazem Hseino, Oscar Traynor and Paul C Neary have no conflicts of interest or financial ties to disclose.

Ethical approval

Ethical approval was granted by the Research Ethics Committee of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. All participants gave informed and written consent to have any data collected as part of the assessment process analysed and used for research purposes.

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Henn, P., Gallagher, A.G., Nugent, E. et al. Visual spatial ability for surgical trainees: implications for learning endoscopic, laparoscopic surgery and other image-guided procedures. Surg Endosc 32, 3634–3639 (2018).

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  • Image-guided surgery
  • Visual spatial aptitude
  • Assessment