A Few Video Games - Good for Laparoscopic Surgeons
Tue - October 7, 2008
The doctors were guinea pigs in a study designed by Dr. James Rosser Jr., who is the director of both minimally invasive surgery and the Advanced Medical Technology Institute at Beth Israel. Dr. Rosser, a video game enthusiast, came up with the idea for the study after he saw a photo of himself playing a video game and another of him performing surgery. ''I said, boy, that looks similar,'' he recalled. He wanted to investigate whether doctors who were good at gaming might be better at laparoscopic surgery, too, or at least better at the simulated techniques taught in the training course. They might be. In January, Dr. Rosser presented the results of the study at a conference on medicine and virtual reality in Newport Beach, Calif. What he found was that surgeons who currently play video games scored 40 percent better in the suturing course than doctors who never play. Even past gaming experience helps. Doctors who avoided organic chemistry in college by playing Doom but who have not touched a joystick since scored better than those who had never played video games, the study showed.
Perhaps even more significant, ''the video game play was a stronger determinant of excellence than sex, dominant hand, number of cases or years of training,'' Dr. Rosser said. Laparoscopic surgery is a minimally invasive technique that involves threading a tiny camera into the abdomen through a small incision and threading surgical instruments through two or three other incisions to remove organs like the gall bladder or appendix, or to perform procedures like hernia repair. Once the instruments are inserted, surgeons operate by using keypads and joystick devices while watching their progress on a video screen. More than 1.9 million laparoscopic abdominal surgeries were performed last year in the United States, according to the Millennium Research Group, a consulting firm. The most difficult task a surgeon faces is to suture inside the abdomen without touching any tissues, Dr. Rosser said. That task is made more complicated because the laparoscopic view inside the body is a two-dimensional projection on a screen.