Wanted: Visiting GI Surgeon, Must Demonstrate Expert Video Gaming Skills




Any doubts that playing video games make better endoscopic surgeons have been dispelled by a series of studies from the mid 1990s. The latest confirmation, published in the Archives of Surgery, comes from a study on video games and laparoscopic surgery, at Beth Israel Medical Center, NY, aptly named “Top Gun.”

Young surgeons who were the best video game players made 47% fewer errors, finished 39% faster and performed 49% better overall, leaving little room for skepticism. A significant correlation was also found between better performance and playing at least 3 hours of video games a week.

Although the study confirms that those who play games regularly are better surgeons, it does not mean that all surgeons can improve their operative skills by playing video games, but it does imply that video games can be utilized to maintain operating skills in good surgeons. The authors of the study have called for video games to be introduced as part of surgical training programs, however, video simulations have been utilized for years for training air force and commercial pilots. They can also be utilized in a variety of other professions where hand-eye coordination, depth perception, visual attention and fine motor skills are important e.g., watch making and repairing, microchips and electronic assembly, among others.

However, the authors, aware of the potential abuse of the study’s results by teenagers, warn that excessive video gaming might significantly lower the chances of getting into medical school in first place; neither should parents let their children play more than an hour a day, in the hope they become great surgeons some day.

On a more practical note, surgical simulators are gradually making their entry in to training programs world wide. As the medico-legal climate keeps changing, young surgeons are finding it increasingly important to learn surgery through trial-and-error, and practicing it on a virtual reality model several times first is an increasingly feasible future scenario which is under development.

Meanwhile, we could always pick our surgeons to operate upon us by first watching them play 10 minutes of Grand Theft Auto or Star Wars.

Reference

Rosser JC, Lynch PJ, Cuddihy L, Gentile DA, Klonsky J, Merrell R. The impact of video games on training surgeons in the 21st century. Arch Surg. 2007 Feb;142(2):181-6; discussion 186.

Sudip Ghosh, MD

Sudip Ghosh, MD, is a surgeon at the University of Manchester, UK and a medical writer.
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