You may not associate video games with surgery, but a new study suggests an interesting connection. The study shows a strong correlation between a surgeon’s skills performing laparoscopic surgery and capabilities playing video games. The connection may not be as surprising as it first seems, since laparoscopy and similar surgeries require surgeons to manipulate instruments through minute incisions, using a television screen – similar to maneuvering a video game using a controller.
Modern-Day Surgical Techniques and Video Games
Laparoscopic surgery is minimally invasive surgery; surgeons perform operations remotely through small incisions elsewhere in the body. The benefits of this type of surgery are minimal scarring and reduced recovery time. The latest surgical techniques use medical equipment that somewhat resembles the controllers in modern video games. A surgeon’s movements via the television screen mimic the relationship between a game controller and what happens on the screen.
Previous research on the effects of video games on users shows that playing video games can improve motor skills, help develop hand-eye coordination, increase visual attention, and generate computer competency. These skills are the same ones surgeons need to operate, especially during laparoscopic and similar surgeries. Given this information, it isn’t a big stretch to believe surgeons who play video games will be better at operating advanced surgical tools that require hand-eye coordination and using a television screen.
Details of the Archives of Surgery Study
The February 2016 issue of Archives of Surgery published a new study on the correlation between video games and advanced surgical skills, focusing on laparoscopic surgeries and similar procedures. The goal of the study was to prove that surgeons who spent time playing video games had marked advantages over surgeons who never play video games. This correlation, if proven, could change the way hospitals train younger surgeons to operate high- tech equipment of the future. Thirty-three surgeons from Beth Israel Medical Center in New York participated in the almost two-day- long surgical skills test. To assess the level of experience with video games and current level of play, the surgeons participated in three different video game exercises before being selected for the study. They also completed surveys regarding video games, their level of surgical training, number of laparoscopic surgeries performed, and number of years practicing medicine.
During the test, the nine surgeons who played video games at least three hours per week performed better than the other surgeons did. Those nine surgeons performed 27% faster, made 37% fewer errors, and scored 42% better than the other 15 surgeons in the study who had never played video games. The authors of the study measured for outcomes using each participant’s suturing capabilities and laparoscopic skills as well as video game scores and playing experience.
The correlation between video games and advanced surgical skills was much higher than variables such as prior laparoscopic experience or the surgeon’s length of training. Past video game play was a strong predictor of surgical skill during the study – a surprising revelation for at least one of the study’s authors, Douglas Gentile, a psychology professor at Iowa State University.
Possibilities for the Future
Dr. James Rosser of Beth Israel believes that video games have potential for being practical teaching tools for future surgeons. Training curricula using video games may help close the gap between surgeons and screen-mediated surgical applications. Using television screen interfaces for video gaming at least three hours per week may improve a surgeon’s ability to use tools involved in laparoscopic surgeries.
Despite the positive results of the study, the authors aren’t encouraging parents to let their children play video games for hours per day. Previous studies have correlated extended video game play with heightened childhood aggression, lower grades in school, and decreasing positive social behaviors.