Games in Science and Technology

Surgeons Learn Hands-On with Virtual Skills Lab

Doctors Performing SurgeryDon't be too quick to look down on your child's interest in video games. Who knows, maybe the skills they acquire during playing will help them save lives. Doctors at the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas are utilizing machines that use video game technology to learn how to perform surgeries.

In the Virtual Skills Lab at UMC, created by the UMC and its School of Medicine, surgical residents are learning to do procedures via video game technology, before attempting them on living patients.

But this is far from your Trauma Center games. This technology allows residents to interact with realistic tissues through sophisticated graphics and computer-generated simulations. Read More...

"The virtual reality simulators harness a technology called haptics which allows the user to feel the tissues as they manipulate them with virtual instruments," says Dr. Shawn Tsuda, Director of the Virtual Skills Laboratory, in a press release.

To keep it fun, residents also compete, thereby promoting excellence. So skilled at the Virtual Skills Lab, Dr. Tsuda has won the national Top Gun competition, a series of laparoscopic tasks performed for time and accuracy.

In the Virtual Skills Lab residents are acquiring the difficult skills needed to do a real colonoscopy, by performing a virtual one. If they hurt the machine, it will cry out. Not only is there a colonoscopy machine, but there's also one that simulates a gallbladder operation, among others.

"When a surgeon was faced with new skills, before a lab like this, surgeons would learn how to do this, with patients, with a proctor that had done this before and the old dictum of see one do one teach one used to be kind of the rule in surgery," said Dr. James Lau, surgeon, quoted in a news report.

Interestingly, the virtual skills are now part of the board certification process, required by the American College of Surgeons. The UMC lab is also available for local surgeons, who need to brush up on their skills for re-accreditation, or just to be a better surgeon. According to studies, virtual labs such as this increase skill while decreasing operating time and complications.