Friday, March 21, 2008

Surgeons Refine Skills With Nintendo Wii

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My thanks to Susan Jacobs for today's post.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported on a small study in which surgeons played the Nintendo Wii in order to hone their fine motor skills. The training they completed with the Wii was actually to prepare the surgeons for a more advanced surgery simulator. Yes, it's essentially a process of training with a video game to play with another video game.

One of the key areas that doctors are trying to focus on is improving their skills with keyhole surgery, also known as laparoscopic surgery. Such a procedure is cutting-edge and requires a very adept attention to detail, as it involves the use of tiny instruments and a camera.

What kind of Nintendo game prepares doctors for such a task? One is the faithful Wii standby, Marble Mania, which is a 3D puzzle game that involves rolling a marble around a maze. A game like Marble Mania is much more useful than, say, tennis or bowling. The point of the Wii practice is to refine very subtle hand movements, after all.

In the study conducted with the Wii, a group of residents were tested on their skills with the laparoscopic surgery simulator. Previous to using the simulator, half of the group trained with the Wii, while the other half did not. As a result, those who had played the Wii showed 48% improvement with the laparoscopic procedure.

Authors of the study hope to develop a full-blown surgery simulator for the Nintendo Wii. This would be their ideal answer for residents who must go home due to work-hour caps. While at home, they can be training for surgery on their gaming console.

After the authors went public with their study, they presented it at the Medicine Meets Virtual Reality Conference, which garnered quite a bit of media coverage. From here, a more extensive study will be conducted with Stanford and Harvard universities, the University of Washington and East Virginia Medical School.

Susan Jacobs is a teacher, a freelance writer as well as a regular contributor for NOEDb, a site helping students obtain an online nursing degree. Susan invites your questions, comments and freelancing job inquiries at her email address


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Very interesting. I find the interaction between medicine and everyday life to be quite fascinating. Thanks for the great post.

Have a great day,


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