Game On: Study Evaluates Laparoscopic Simulator Versus Video Game Controller

Can video gaming prepare a whole new class of surgeons? A 2007 study reported surgeons who played video games for more than three hours per week made 37 percent fewer errors, were 27 percent faster and scored 42 percent better on laparoscopic surgery and suturing drills than surgeons who never played video games.

That comes as no surprise to John Coté, MD, a laparoscopic surgeon and long-time video game enthusiast. He thinks the more important question may be: “Is it the game or the controller?”

Built around that supposition is the prospective random study currently taking place at Creighton University Medical Center - Bergan Mercy.

A laparoscopy surgery-inspired video game named Underground uses a controller – a $261 peripheral from the Netherlands – to mimic the inverted axis experienced during real laparoscopic procedures. Coté, primary investigator, and an “Underground Crew” of second year med students are enrolling CUMC - Bergan Mercy medical students and residents.

“We’re rating their proficiency on the lap simulator to determine if higher scores are associated with playing Underground, versus playing Underground with the inverted axis controller, versus no video game play.”

Coté expects those using the controller will have higher marks. “The biggest hurdle when learning laparoscopy is mastering inverted axis,” he said. It takes a lot of practice. And this could be a very cost-effective way, with less time limitations, to get that needed practice.”