Super Monkey Ball finds a place in surgical training

Surgeons with gaming skills perform better than their non-gaming peers, researchers say

A study involving 33 surgeons of varied game-playing backgrounds has revealed that the skills obtained from video games could transfer to a delicate procedure known as laparoscopic surgery.

Twelve surgeons and twenty-one surgical residents from the prestigious Beth Israel Medical Center in New York were surveyed to determine their game-playing habits and skill. Survey responses were compared to how well each participant performed in a simulated surgery skills course.

Of the surgeons who participated in the study, 15 reported to have never played video games, nine reported playing zero to three hours per week, and nine reported playing more than three hours per week at the height of their video game playing.

The latter group of surgeons was found to perform best at laparoscopic surgery, scoring 42 percent better in the surgery skills test than the 15 surgeons who had never played video games. Surgeons who reported playing up to three hours per week followed, scoring an average of 26 percent better than their non-gamer colleagues.

The study was conducted during four months in 2002 and was led by Dr. James C. Rosser Jr, a Professor of Clinical Surgery at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. Results will be published for the first time in the U.S. journal Archives of Surgery this month, after an extensive peer review process by the scientific community.

While the relevance of video games in the training of surgeons has been the subject of some controversy among medical researchers, Rosser's results were hardly a surprise for the long-time gamer who the media and his students have dubbed the 'Nintendo Surgeon' and 'Xbox doctor'.

"We all know that in surgery and video games, practice makes perfect," he said. "I think that video games share so much common ground with this new type of surgery, because both are dictated by the world of the screen."

Laparoscopic surgery is a minimally invasive procedure that was introduced in the early 1990s as an alternative to open surgery. The technique is performed using a tiny video camera and thin operating instruments that are inserted through small incisions in the body.

Surgeons are required to manipulate instruments based on the video feed that is delivered to a television screen. As such, laparoscopic surgery requires a high level of visual-spatial perception skills that Rosser expects can be trained by playing video games.

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Liz Tay

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