Why Your Surgeon Should Be a Gamer

Boing-Boing has a snip from Nick Bilton’s I Live in the Future and Here’s How it Works: Why Your World, Work, and Brain are Being Creatively Disrupted, which is an incredibly long title for what sounds like a fun book. The excerpt looks at a study that suggests surgeons who play video games do better at laparoscopic surgery than surgeons who don’t.

A few years ago, researchers quizzed more than thirty surgeons and surgical residents on their video- game habits, identifying those who played video games frequently, those who played less frequently, and those who hardly played at all. Then they put all the surgeons through a laparoscopic surgery simulator, in which thin instruments akin to extremely long chopsticks are inserted into one or more small incisions through the skin along with a small camera that is inserted into an additional small opening. Minimally invasive surgery like this frequently is used for gallbladder removal, gynecologic procedures, and other procedures that once involved major cutting and stitching and could require hours on an operating table.

The researchers found that surgeons or residents who used to be avid video game players had significantly better laparoscopic skills than did those who’d never played. On average, the serious game players were 33 percent faster and made 37 percent fewer errors than their colleagues who didn’t have prior video- game experience.

The more video games the surgeons had played in the past, the better their numbers. This wasn’t tested on a group of kids who played twelve hours of video games a day and hadn’t showered in weeks. These residents and practicing surgeons simply played three or more hours of action video games a week. Some of the more advanced video- game- playing students managed to make 47 percent fewer errors than others and were able to work as much as 39 percent faster.

This jibes with  something my father, a surgeon, mentioned to me years ago. Dad studied under Michael DeBakey and then did general surgery for about 30+ years in Houston. In his last 10 or 15 years or so working, he took up laparoscopy — one of the early-birds on that worm — and it completely reinvigorated his practice and his pleasure in the work. I remember him telling me, probably 25 years ago or more, about a laparoscopic technician in his 20s — not a surgeon, but someone who helped drive the machinery, essentially — who had played a lot of early-gen video games in his youth and still did. It quite stuck in my mind; he said that kid was easily the best lap tech he had worked with. Loved working with him.

You take up a selection of skills, you never quite know where it might come in useful — or, for that matter, outmoded. But quite often, new proves good.

Video at top is a laparoscopic appendectomy. A colleague of my dad’s took my appendix out when I was ten. Told Dad he could scrub in and join him. Dad passed. Smart move.

At one point I planned to be a surgeon. Now even this little film makes me woozy.

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  1. Pingback: Laparoscopic technician | Jamierossphoto

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