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Predictive value of background experiences and visual spatial ability testing on laparoscopic baseline performance among residents entering postgraduate surgical training



Emerging evidence suggests that despite dedicated practice, not all surgical trainees have the ability to reach technical competency in minimally invasive techniques. While selecting residents that have the ability to reach technical competence is important, evidence to guide the incorporation of technical ability into selection processes is limited. Therefore, the purpose of the present study was to evaluate whether background experiences and 2D–3D visual spatial test results are predictive of baseline laparoscopic skill for the novice surgical trainee.


First-year residents were studied. Demographic data and background surgical and non-surgical experiences were obtained using a questionnaire. Visual spatial ability was evaluated using the PicSOr, cube comparison (CC) and card rotation (CR) tests. Technical skill was assessed using the camera navigation (LCN) task and laparoscopic circle cut (LCC) task. Resident performance on these technical tasks was compared and correlated with the questionnaire and visual spatial findings.


Previous experience in observing laparoscopic procedures was associated with significantly better LCN performance, and experience in navigating the laparoscopic camera was associated with significantly better LCC task results. Residents who scored higher on the CC test demonstrated a more accurate LCN path length score (r s(PL) = −0.36, p = 0.03) and angle path (r s(AP) = −0.426, p = 0.01) score when completing the LCN task. No other significant correlations were found between the visual spatial tests (PicSOr, CC or CR) and LCC performance.


While identifying selection tests for incoming surgical trainees that predict technical skill performance is appealing, the surrogate markers evaluated correlate with specific metrics of surgical performance related to a single task but do not appear to reliably predict technical performance of different laparoscopic tasks. Predicting the acquisition of technical skills will require the development of a series of evidence-based tests that measure a number of innate abilities as well as their inherent interactions.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2



Pictorial surface orientation


Card rotation


Cube comparison


Laparoscopic camera navigation


Laparoscopic circle cut


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Marisa Louridas, Lauren Quinn and Teodor Grantcharov have no conflicts of interest or financial ties to disclose.

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Correspondence to Marisa Louridas.

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Louridas, M., Quinn, L.E. & Grantcharov, T.P. Predictive value of background experiences and visual spatial ability testing on laparoscopic baseline performance among residents entering postgraduate surgical training. Surg Endosc 30, 1126–1133 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00464-015-4313-8

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  • Visual spatial
  • Technical skill
  • Laparoscopy
  • Surgical education