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Subspecialties Education and Training, Retina, Professional Development

The Sims: Surgery Edition

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Today’s society is rife with simulators. They range from video games in which you can simulate farming or building a PC to more practical applications, such as those that allow people to experience and learn surgical techniques. But can a simulator accurately teach real-life surgical skills? This is the question researchers from the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, sought to answer for a virtual simulator designed to train retinal surgeons (1).

Less experienced surgeons recorded a major improvement in surgical skill following repeated use of the simulator, whereas more experienced staff saw a smaller improvement – to be expected, because they had less to learn. To further test the accuracy of the simulator, the surgeons’ “weaker” hands were then tested, with a significant drop in performance compared with use of their dominant hands.

In a more interesting plot twist, the surgeons were then tasked with performing the surgical simulation following either sleep deprivation (17 hours awake), a large cup of coffee, or two shots of tequila! Unsurprisingly, researchers found that neither sleep deprivation nor alcohol did any favors to surgical performance, but the coffee induced a slight improvement. Overall, the virtual reality simulator proved to be an accurate representation of real-life surgical skill and also showed good potential as a training tool for younger ophthalmologists. In addition to training and predicting surgical skill, the simulator could also be used to examine the effects of environmental factors on surgical performance, which could inform policy on shifts taken by surgeons and the safety of using stimulants in the workplace.

For more ARVO Journal and related content, sign up to The Ophthalmologist’s weekly newsletter, in which we will be curating regular content related to the organization and its vision research. The information, which will range from research content to ARVO member interviews with both leaders of vision research and early-career ophthalmologists who are just starting to blaze their own trails.

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  1. FA Adatia et al., Transl Vis Sci Technol, 11, 16 (2022). PMID: 35980671.
About the Author
Geoffrey Potjewyd

Associate Editor, The Ophthalmologist

The lion’s share of my PhD was spent in the lab, and though I mostly enjoyed it (mostly), what I particularly liked was the opportunity to learn about the latest breakthroughs in research. Communicating science to a wider audience allows me to scratch that itch without working all week only to find my stem cell culture has given up the ghost on the Friday (I’m not bitter). Fortunately for me, it turns out writing is actually fun – so by working for Texere I get to do it every day, whilst still being an active member of the clinical and research community.

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