Acta Neurochirurgica

, Volume 159, Issue 6, pp 959–966 | Cite as

Optimal eye movement strategies: a comparison of neurosurgeons gaze patterns when using a surgical microscope

  • Shahram EivaziEmail author
  • Ahmad Hafez
  • Wolfgang Fuhl
  • Hoorieh Afkari
  • Enkelejda Kasneci
  • Martin Lehecka
  • Roman Bednarik
Original Article - Neurosurgery Training



Previous studies have consistently demonstrated gaze behaviour differences related to expertise during various surgical procedures. In micro-neurosurgery, however, there is a lack of evidence of empirically demonstrated individual differences associated with visual attention. It is unknown exactly how neurosurgeons see a stereoscopic magnified view in the context of micro-neurosurgery and what this implies for medical training.


We report on an investigation of the eye movement patterns in micro-neurosurgery using a state-of-the-art eye tracker. We studied the eye movements of nine neurosurgeons while performing cutting and suturing tasks under a surgical microscope. Eye-movement characteristics, such as fixation (focus level) and saccade (visual search pattern), were analysed.


The results show a strong relationship between the level of microsurgical skill and the gaze pattern, whereas more expertise is associated with greater eye control, stability, and focusing in eye behaviour. For example, in the cutting task, well-trained surgeons increased their fixation durations on the operating field twice as much as the novices (expert, 848 ms; novice, 402 ms).


Maintaining steady visual attention on the target (fixation), as well as being able to quickly make eye jumps from one target to another (saccades) are two important elements for the success of neurosurgery. The captured gaze patterns can be used to improve medical education, as part of an assessment system or in a gaze-training application.


Medical practice Visual attention Microsurgery Surgical training Neurosurgery 



We would like to thank all surgeons who participated in this study, and Helsinki University Hospital for enabling us to conduct this experiment.

Compliance with ethical standards


No funding was received for this research.

Conflict of interest


Ethical approval

For this type of study formal consent is not required.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of ComputingUniversity of Eastern FinlandJoensuuFinland
  2. 2.Department of NeurosurgeryHelsinki University Central HospitalHelsinkiFinland
  3. 3.Department of Computer ScienceUniversity of TübingenTübingenGermany

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