Video Gamers Make Better Surgeons?

A new study published in the February issue of Archives of Surgery suggests a correlation between a surgeon’s video game competence and skills at performing laparoscopic surgery.

Laparoscopic procedures involve small instruments inserted via body openings or small incisions, where the physician conducts procedures by watching a video feed on a separate television monitor rather than by direct observation of the surgical field. In many cases, laparoscopic procedures offer patients quicker revocery times and fewer complicates because of their less invasive nature.

The study monitored the performance of thirty-three surgical residents and attending physicians participating in the Rosser Top Gun Laparoscopic Skills and Suturing Program from May 10 to August 24, 2002. (Yes, four and a half years ago! Big science can move slowly.) The study found that surgeons who played video games more than 3 hours a week had 37 percent fewer errors and 27 percent faster completion of procedures. Overall Top Gun scores were 42 percent better for gamers who put in more than three hours a week, and 33 percent better for gamers who put in less time. Overall, current and past video game experience were found to be strong predictors of laparoscopic skills in the surgeons studied.

The analysis would seem to back up other research that finds video game play can improve fine motor skills, visual acuity, and eye-hand coordination…however, one hopes it also doesn’t back up studies which found playing video games linked to aggressiveness and poor academic performance. One doesn’t really want a surgeon forgetting what he or she is doing in the middle of suturing, getting ticked off, and reaching for the reset switch. (But, who knows? Maybe that would re-invigorate ER.)

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