Robotic surgery—commanding a robotic arm to perform delicate surgical tasks—has become more and more popular in medicine. But are doctors really the best ones to be commanding them? Turns out that gamers might actually be a better bet.
The surgery simulation used in the study resembles a video game booth. It has a two-handed control system and a screen for the user to watch his or her actions in real time. In the study, students and doctors used robotic arms to perform tasks that mimic suturing, passing needles, and lifting surgical instruments. The researchers then measured the subject’s performance in 20 skill areas including precision, steadiness and tension of the subjects’ movements. Researchers found that the students had an edge in hand-eye coordination and dexterity—skills likely honed over long hours with video game controllers. But the gamers were not so adept when it came to non-robotic surgical techniques. When participants had to perform non-robotic exercises to test laparoscopic surgery skills, the resident physicians blew the gamers out of the water.
Here’s a doctor from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) talking about the study:
Robotic surgery has all sorts of advantages over someone actually sticking heir hands in you. The National Institute of Health says:
The robot reduces the surgeon’s movements (for example, moving 1/2 inch for every 1 inch the surgeon moves), which reduces some of the hand tremors and movements that might otherwise make the surgery less precise. Also, robotic instruments can access hard-to-reach areas of your body more easily through smaller surgical cuts compared to traditional open and laparoscopic surgery.
Chances are, you’re not going to sign off on some teenage gamer to do your surgery over a medical student, but perhaps med students could learn something from their gamer friends.
More from Smithsonian.com: