Virtual reality applied to procedural testing: the next era

Ann Surg. 2003 Mar;237(3):442-8. doi: 10.1097/01.SLA.0000055279.50681.80.


Objective: To establish the construct validity of a virtual reality-based upper gastrointestinal endoscopy simulator as a tool for the skills training of residents.

Summary background data: Previous studies have demonstrated the relevance of virtual reality training as an adjunct to traditional operating room learning for residents. The use of specific task trainers, which have the ability to objectively analyze and track user performance, has been shown to demonstrate improvements in performance over time. Using this off-line technology can lessen the financial and ethical concerns of using operative time to teach basic skills.

Methods: Thirty-five residents and fellows from General Surgery and Gastrointestinal Medicine were recruited for this study. Their performance on virtual reality upper endoscopy tasks was analyzed by computer. Assessments were made on parameters such as time needed to finish the examination, completeness of the examination, and number of wall collisions. Subjective experiences were queried through questionnaires. Users were grouped according to their prior level of experience performing endoscopy.

Results: Construct validation of this simulator was demonstrated. Performance on visualization and biopsy tasks varied directly with the subjects' prior experience level. Subjective responses indicated that novice and intermediate users felt the simulation to be a useful experience, and that they would use the equipment in their off time if it were available.

Conclusions: Virtual reality simulation may be a useful adjunct to traditional operating room experiences. Construct validity testing demonstrates the efficacy of this device. Similar objective methods of skills evaluation may be useful as part of a residency skills curriculum and as a means of procedural skills testing.

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation
  • Digestive System
  • Endoscopy, Gastrointestinal*
  • Esophagoscopy*
  • Gastroenterology / education*
  • General Surgery / education*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Models, Anatomic
  • User-Computer Interface*