Surgeons may have gained an unexpected advantage from the many hours they spent in their youth attached to the couch with Nintendo and PlayStation. Scientists found that surgeons who played video games for at least three hours each week were 27 percent faster at laparoscopic procedures and made 37 percent fewer mistakes.
A different tune could have been sung to game-obsessed children by well-meaning mothers had they known that video games are now being used to train doctors. Many people have unfavorable impressions of video games, believing, for example, that they are a mindless waste of time, that they cause poor academic performance, that they encourage antisocial behavior by encouraging players to avoid social interaction, and even that they promote aggressive behavior.
However, there are some encouraging news for players. Surgeons are using video game-style control schemes—complete with a joystick and buttons—to practice laparoscopies, robotic operations, and image-guided clinical procedures. Training in this fashion can improve hand-eye coordination, leading to enhanced surgical abilities.
One study by JC Rosser Jr et al found that surgeons who had previously spent more than three hours per week playing certain video games had 37% fewer mistakes and 27% faster completion rates when doing laparoscopic surgery and suturing. For those who had played video games before, the average time and error scores dropped by 33%, and by 42% if they had played more than 3 hours per week. A recent study contrasted the performance of surgeons who play video games to that of their peers who had never picked up a controller.
Dr. Rosser also observed that surgeons who played specific video games immediately before doing laparoscopic suturing were able to complete the process more quickly and with fewer mistakes than their counterparts who did not prepare on video games. Skills and experience with video games were found to be significant predictors of actual laparoscopic ability in a regression study. Super Monkey Ball, in which players guide a monkey inside a ball through a series of obstacles, was one of the video games used in the research. Super Monkey Ball is a great way to refine the incredibly precise finger movements needed to remotely guide surgical tools inside a patient.
Similar studies at the University of Rome found that the Nintendo Wii could be useful in complementing the more traditional, hands-on surgical teaching provided by simulators in operating rooms for the training of young laparoscopic surgeons.
Dr. Sami Kilic, an associate professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, also conducted research along these lines to determine whether or not extensive time spent playing video games with a controller could help a doctor master the techniques required for modern robotic surgery. Using a simulator with a 2-handed controller like those used in many video games and a monitor that exhibited real-time surgical movements, the study assessed the performance of three groups over a series of robotic surgery simulations. High school sophomores who played 2 hours of video games per day were put against college students who played 4 hours per day, and resident doctors who never played video games were pitted against both groups. Suturing, needle passing, and raising surgical equipment with 2 robotic arms were all examined for each group. The subject's efficiency of motion, hand-eye coordination, and grasping skills were all put to the test by the simulator, which also monitored for accidental instrument collisions and drops. Compared to the resident physicians, the high school and college students performed equally well, and in some cases even better. Perhaps most surprisingly, the top results came from the high school students. The college group averaged four hours of gaming per day, whereas the high school group averaged just two. While the study's results imply that playing video games can help with the motor abilities and hand-eye coordination needed for robotic surgery, it also showed that more gaming time doesn't necessarily correlate to better robotic surgical skills.
More and more research shows a good association between playing video games and becoming a better surgeon, therefore games are increasingly being used as practical teaching aids to assist train surgeons.
The peer-reviewed Games for Health Journal: Research, Development, and Clinical Applications was released in 2011 and has more information on the correlation between gaming and surgical proficiency.
The Touch Surgery iPhone app is a mobile surgical simulator that features 12 various operations, from cleft palate surgery to emergency limb fasciotomies, all of which can be practiced in a game-like setting. Patients are using the Touch Surgery app to learn more about the operations they will soon undergo. This can make them feel more prepared for the surgery and less anxious about the experience overall.
The use of technology in medicine is constantly improving. As a result, mum, if you want your kid to grow up to be a surgeon, you might want to have an Xbox or PlayStation in the house and encourage him or her to start playing video games at a young age.