Background and study aims: Clinical investigation using endoscopy simulators is now possible due to recent advances in virtual reality technology. A prospective randomized trial was conducted to compare the exclusive use of a virtual reality endoscopy simulator with bedside teaching for training in sigmoidoscopy.
Materials and methods: Internal medicine residents were randomly assigned to training exclusively using a virtual reality simulator (group 1) or via bedside teaching (group 2). Residents were then observed performing five sigmoidoscopic procedures in asymptomatic patients referred for colorectal cancer screening. Endoscopic examinations were evaluated for procedure duration, completion, ability to perform retroflexion, and level of patient comfort/discomfort. Each examination was scored from 1 (inability to insert the endoscope beyond the rectum) to 5 (able to complete the entire examination independently in less than 20 min).
Results: Sixty-six sigmoidoscopic examinations were completed by nine residents in group 1 (simulator-trained group) and seven residents in group 2 (traditional teaching group). Participants in group 1 had more difficulty with initial endoscope insertion and negotiation of the rectosigmoid junction (mean score +/- SEM 2.9 +/- 0.2) than those in group 2 (3.8 +/- 0.2) ( P < 0.001). The splenic flexure was reached independently in 10 of 34 examinations (29 %) in group 1, compared with 23 of 32 examinations (72 %) in group 2 ( P = 0.001). Retroflexion was successfully performed by 19 of 34 (56 %) in group 1 compared to 27 of 32 (84 %) in group 2 ( P = 0.02). The average procedure time, patient satisfaction, and discomfort associated with the procedure did not differ statistically between the two groups.
Conclusions: The use of a state-of-the-art virtual reality-based endoscopy simulator is inferior to traditional bedside teaching techniques when used exclusively for training medical residents to perform sigmoidoscopy.