February 19, 2007 / 9:16 PM / 2 years ago

Surgeons who play video games more skilled: study

CHICAGO (Reuters Life!) - Playing video games appears to help surgeons with skills that truly count: how well they operate using a precise technique, a study said on Monday.

File photo shows Israeli doctors performing heart surgery on Hala Ketani, a 10-month-old girl from Gaza, at Wolfson Hospital near Tel Aviv, November 28, 2006. Playing video games appears to help surgeons with skills that truly count: how well they operate using a precise technique, a study said on Monday. REUTERS/Yonathan Weitzman

There was a strong correlation between video game skills and a surgeon’s capabilities performing laparoscopic surgery in the study published in the February issue of Archives of Surgery.

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Laparoscopy and related surgeries involve manipulating instruments through a small incision or body opening where the surgeon’s movements are guided by watching a television screen.

Video game skills translated into higher scores on a day-and-half-long surgical skills test, and the correlation was much higher than the surgeon’s length of training or prior experience in laparoscopic surgery, the study said.

Out of 33 surgeons from Beth Israel Medical Center in New York that participated in the study, the nine doctors who had at some point played video games at least three hours per week made 37 percent fewer errors, performed 27 percent faster, and scored 42 percent better in the test of surgical skills than the 15 surgeons who had never played video games before.

“It was surprising that past commercial video game play was such a strong predictor of advanced surgical skills,” said Iowa State University psychology professor Douglas Gentile, one of the study’s authors.

It supports previous research that video games can improve “fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination, visual attention, depth perception and computer competency,” the study said.

“Video games may be a practical teaching tool to help train surgeons,” senior author Dr. James Rosser of Beth Israel said.

While surgeons may benefit from playing video games, the study did not give parents a pass if their children play the games for hours on end.

A 2004 survey by Gentile found 94 percent of U.S. adolescents play video games for an average of nine hours a week. Game-playing has been linked to aggressiveness, poor school grades and can become a substitute for exercise.

“Parents should not see this study as beneficial if their child is playing video games for over an hour a day,” Gentile said. “Spending that much time playing video games is not going to help their child’s chances of getting into medical school.”

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