Playing to your skills: a randomised controlled trial evaluating a dedicated video game for minimally invasive surgery

  • Cuan M. Harrington
  • Vishwa Chaitanya
  • Patrick Dicker
  • Oscar Traynor
  • Dara O. Kavanagh



Video gaming demands elements of visual attention, hand–eye coordination and depth perception which may be contiguous with laparoscopic skill development. General video gaming has demonstrated altered cortical plasticity and improved baseline/acquisition of minimally invasive skills. The present study aimed to evaluate for skill acquisition associated with a commercially available dedicated laparoscopic video game (Underground) and its unique (laparoscopic-like) controller for the Nintendo®Wii U™ console.


This single-blinded randomised controlled study was conducted with laparoscopically naive student volunteers of limited (< 3 h/week) video gaming backgrounds. Baseline laparoscopic skills were assessed using four basic tasks on the Virtual Reality (VR) simulator (LAP MentorTM, 3D systems, Colorado, USA). Twenty participants were randomised to two groups; Group A was requested to complete 5 h of video gaming (Underground) per week and Group B to avoid gaming beyond their normal frequency. After 4 weeks participants were reassessed using the same VR tasks. Changes in simulator performances were assessed for each group and for intergroup variances using mixed model regression.


Significant inter- and intragroup performances were present for the video gaming and controls across four basic tasks. The video gaming group demonstrated significant improvements in thirty-one of the metrics examined including dominant (p ≤ 0.004) and non-dominant (p < 0.050) instrument movements, pathlengths (p ≤ 0.040), time taken (p ≤ 0.021) and end score [p ≤ 0.046, (task-dependent)]. The control group demonstrated improvements in fourteen measures. The video gaming group demonstrated significant (p < 0.05) improvements compared to the control in five metrics. Despite encouraged gameplay and the console in participants’ domiciles, voluntary engagement was lower than directed due to factors including: game enjoyment (33.3%), lack of available time (22.2%) and entertainment distractions (11.1%).


Our work revealed significant value in training using a dedicated laparoscopic video game for acquisition of virtual laparoscopic skills. This novel serious game may provide foundations for future surgical developments on game consoles in the home environment.


Video gaming Laparoscopy Minimally invasive surgery Technical skills 


Compliance with ethical standards


Cuan Harrington received a research Grant [Grant Number 1841, 2015] from the Health Service Executive (HSE) Ireland which was non-specific to this study. Vishwa Chaitanya, Patrick Dicker, Dara Kavanagh and Oscar Traynor have no conflicts of interest or financial ties to disclose.

Ethical approval

Ethical approval was granted for this study by the local ethics committee of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (REC1202). All participants gave voluntary and informed consent.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cuan M. Harrington
    • 1
  • Vishwa Chaitanya
    • 2
  • Patrick Dicker
    • 3
  • Oscar Traynor
    • 1
  • Dara O. Kavanagh
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Surgical AffairsRoyal College of Surgeons in IrelandDublinIreland
  2. 2.School of MedicineRoyal College of Surgeons in IrelandDublinIreland
  3. 3.Department of Epidemiology and Public Health MedicineRoyal College of Surgeons in IrelandDublinIreland

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