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J Surg Educ. 2008 Nov-Dec;65(6):431-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2008.05.008.

Does training novices to criteria and does rapid acquisition of skills on laparoscopic simulators have predictive validity or are we just playing video games?

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Department of Surgery, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia Campus, New York, New York 10032, USA.



To determine whether LapSim training (version 3.0; Surgical Science Ltd, Göteborg, Sweden) to criteria for novice PGY1 surgical residents had predictive validity for improvement in the performance of laparoscopic cholecystectomy.


In all, 21 PGY1 residents performed laparoscopic cholecystectomies in pigs after minimal training; their performance was evaluated by skilled laparoscopic surgeons using the validated tool GOALS (global operative assessment of laparoscopic operative skills: depth perception, bimanual dexterity, efficiency, tissue handling, and overall competence). From the group, 10 residents trained to competency on the LapSim Basic Skills Programs (camera navigation, instrument navigation, coordination, grasping, lifting and grasping, cutting, and clip applying). All 21 PGY1 residents again performed laparoscopic cholecystectomies on pigs; their performance was again evaluated by skilled laparoscopic surgeons using GOALS. Additionally, we studied the rate of learning to determine whether the slow or fast learners on the LapSim performed equivalently when performing actual cholecystectomies in pigs. Finally, 6 categorical residents were tracked, and their clinical performance on all of the laparoscopic cholecystectomies in which they were "surgeon, junior" was prospectively evaluated using the GOALS criteria.


We found a statistical improvement of depth perception in the operative performance of cholecystectomies in pigs in the group trained on the LapSim. In the other 4 domains, a trend toward improvement was observed. No correlation between being a fast learner and the ultimate skill was demonstrated in the clinical performance of laparoscopic cholecystectomies. We did find that the fast learners on LapSim all were past or current video game players ("gamers"); however, that background did not translate into better clinical performance.


Using current criteria, we doubt that the time and effort spent training novice PGY1 Surgical Residents on the basic LapSim training programs is justified, as such training to competence lacks predictive validity in most domains of the GOALS program. We are investigating 2 other approaches: more difficult training exercises using the LapSim system and an entirely different approach using haptic technology (ProMis; Haptica Ltd., Ireland), which uses real instruments, with training on realistic 3-dimensional models with real rather than simulated cutting, sewing, and dissection. Although experienced video gamers achieve competency faster than nongamers on LapSim programs, that skill set does not translate into improved clinical performance.

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