The Ultimate "Halo" Effect

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  • 01/18/2008
A US study by the Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona has found surgical residents performed better during simulated surgery after playing on the Wii for an hour beforehand.

"The whole point about surgery is to execute small, finely controlled movements with your hands, and that is exactly what you get playing Wii," Kanav Kahol, who conducted the study with colleague Marshall Smith, told New Scientist magazine.

Professor John Quin, executive director of surgical affairs at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, said the study was interesting and showed promise, but it was still not clear whether better performance in simulated surgery translated into better performance in surgery on a live patient.

"What it shows at the moment is only that if you repeatedly play video games you get better at playing video games," he said, adding the RACS was conducting a Federal Government-aided study to determine the effectiveness of simulated surgery.

Professor Quin said he hoped high-tech tools like the Wii and simulated surgery proved useful because "it's getting more and more difficult to train the full experience of the surgical operation".

The study found only those games requiring precise movements, like Marble Mania in which a player guides a marble through a 3D obstacle course using the Wii's motion-sensitive remote, are effective.

"You don't gain a lot from swinging an imaginary tennis racket," Kahol said.

Past research by other academics has similarly found video games requiring fine control can help build the skills surgeons need for operations like keyhole surgery.

Kahol and Smith are now reportedly designing Wii software to accurately simulate surgical procedures. For developing countries unable to provide expensive professional training systems, the Wii could be used as a cheap and effective training tool.

In conducting their study, the pair called on eight trainee doctors to play the Wii for an hour before performing virtual surgery using a tool called ProMIS. The training tool provides a 3D simulation of a patient's body and tracks the surgeon's movements while they are "operating".

Movement data was then processed using an algorithm and the surgeons were given scores. Those who played the Wii scored 48 per cent higher on tool control and performance than those who didn't.

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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