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Are surgeons using video games for training?


Virtual Surgical Training
Will he grow up to be a surgeon? Not necessarily, but a moderate amount of video gaming won't hurt.
Will he grow up to be a surgeon? Not necessarily, but a moderate amount of video gaming won't hurt.
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The results of the study seem pretty conclusive: Gaming skill translates to surgical skill. It's a logical connection. The fine motor skills required in video gaming, along with the enhanced sense of touch and remote movement, are similar to those skills required in surgery. But the study only included 33 surgeons, and the results haven't yet been repeated in a second study, so hospitals aren't yet investing in Xbox stations outside their operating rooms.

Still, the future of surgical training is clear, and actually has been for some time. The military has been using a field-medic simulator called STATCARE for years. STATCARE stands for Simulation Technology Applied to Trauma Care. It's basically a video game that enacts real-world battlefield situations in which a fallen soldier needs medical attention, and the doctors and medics must act quickly. The virtual patient responds to pain and drugs, exhibiting vital signs like a heart beat and blood pressure in response to treatment. The Army discovered some time ago that having medics insert their first IV line in a fellow trainee out in field conditions wasn't the best idea. It's now investing in medical simulators, including a bio-feedback mannequin that actually gets sicker if the doctor messes up.

However, these types of simulators are incredibly expensive, and many medical schools and hospitals can't afford them, let alone afford to purchase enough of them to give everyone the training time necessary to make a real difference. That's where the recent video-gaming study picks up. If it's true that playing regular video games can significantly increase surgical skills, then hospitals interested in providing at least some level of regular, increased training for their surgeons can spend a few hundred dollars on an Xbox instead of a few hundred thousand dollars on a bio-feedback mannequin. It remains to be seen whether the two can deliver comparable results.

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