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Am J Sports Med. 2008 Jun;36(6):1139-42. doi: 10.1177/0363546508314406. Epub 2008 Mar 6.

Individual skill progression on a virtual reality simulator for shoulder arthroscopy: a 3-year follow-up study.

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  • 1Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 75 Francis Street, Boston, MA 02115, USA. agomoll@yahoo.com



Previous studies have demonstrated a correlation between surgical experience and performance on a virtual reality arthroscopy simulator but only provided single time point evaluations. Additional longitudinal studies are necessary to confirm the validity of virtual reality simulation before these teaching aids can be more fully recommended for surgical education.


Subjects will show improved performance on simulator retesting several years after an initial baseline evaluation, commensurate with their advanced surgical experience.


Controlled laboratory study.


After gaining further arthroscopic experience, 10 orthopaedic residents underwent retesting 3 years after initial evaluation on a Procedicus virtual reality arthroscopy simulator. Using a paired t test, simulator parameters were compared in each subject before and after additional arthroscopic experience. Subjects were evaluated for time to completion, number of probe collisions with the tissues, average probe velocity, and distance traveled with the tip of the simulated probe compared to an optimal computer-determined distance. In addition, to evaluate consistency of simulator performance, results were compared to historical controls of equal experience.


Subjects improved significantly (P < .02 for all) in the 4 simulator parameters: completion time (-51%), probe collisions (-29%), average velocity (+122%), and distance traveled (-32%). With the exception of probe velocity, there were no significant differences between the performance of this group and that of a historical group with equal experience, indicating that groups with similar arthroscopic experience consistently demonstrate equivalent scores on the simulator.


Subjects significantly improved their performance on simulator retesting 3 years after initial evaluation. Additionally, across independent groups with equivalent surgical experience, similar performance can be expected on simulator parameters; thus it may eventually be possible to establish simulator benchmarks to indicate likely arthroscopic skill.


These results further validate the use of surgical simulation as an important tool for the evaluation of surgical skills.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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