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Lancet. 2004 Oct 23-29;364(9444):1538-40.

Virtual reality training for the operating room and cardiac catheterisation laboratory.

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Emory Endosurgery Unit, Department of Surgery Emory University Hospital, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.



High-profile cases of medical errors in the USA and UK, and major reports from organisations such as the US Institute of Medicine and UK Senate of Surgery, have sensitised the public and medical profession. Training is a key area that must be tackled to positively affect the problem of medical errors, especially in surgery and interventional cardiology. Despite the radically novel skills required for minimally invasive surgery or interventional cardiology, current training has gone largely unchanged. At the end of the 20th century, the public and the medical profession have concluded that training on patients is no longer acceptable.


Recently, Teodor Grantcharov and colleagues (Br J Surg 2004; 91: 146-50) did a randomised double-blind trial which showed that training by virtual reality (VR) significantly reduces objectively assessed intraoperative errors in laparoscopic cholecystectomy. They used a low-fidelity VR simulator. Much more sophisticated VR simulators exist for endoscopy, gynaecology, laparoscopy, orthopaedics, otolaryngology, robotics, and urology. There are few studies on the efficacy of these simulators in improving the safety of procedures on patients.


There needs to be more large and multicentre studies. Technical skills training for procedural based medicine continues to be an ad-hoc mentor-based experience for the trainee, with experience gained by practising on patients. The skills required now are so difficult to learn that this type of training is no longer acceptable. VR-simulator-based training does work, but further empirical evidence is required to convince the more conservative members of the medical community.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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