Nintendo Wii helps surgeons sharpen their skills

Who says that playing video games can't be useful? New research finds that using a Nintendo Wii might be a helpful and inexpensive part of supplemental training for young laparoscopic surgeons.

A study published this week in PLOS ONE took place at the University of Rome's Department of Surgical Science with two randomized groups made of 42 post graduate residents: one that underwent a four week structured training with a Nintendo Wii Console, and one that did not.

Games played included Wii Sports Tennis, Wii Table Tennis and Battle at high altitude--all games demanding eye-hand coordination, movement precision, depth perception and 3-D visualization, "for the purpose of investigating the transfer effect of video games on laparoscopic simulator performance."

The study found that both participants in the Wii group and participants who did not use Wii in laparoscopic training improved their skills over a four-week period, but those who trained on the Wii showed a larger improvement over the other group. Specific improvements were found in metrics like economy of instrument movements and efficient cautery, Medical News Today noted.

The researchers said that despite their findings, it would be difficult to push medical schools to adopt tools like the Wii for teaching purposes.

"It is hard to suggest that academic institutions adopt a video-game console as a didactic tool for surgery in addition to traditional training and simulators," they said.

A U.K. hospital last year reportedly began using technology similar to what is used in Wii remotes to train its surgeons. Additionally, surgeons in Canada have used Microsoft Kinect technology to manage diagnostic images during procedures.

British researchers also have examined the use of motion sensors like those used in Wii controllers as a means to help stroke patients communicate.

To learn more:
- read the PLOS ONE study

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