Laparoscopic skills maintenance: a randomized trial of virtual reality and box trainer simulators

J Surg Educ. 2014 Jan-Feb;71(1):79-84. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2013.05.009. Epub 2013 Sep 17.


Objective: A number of simulators have been developed to teach surgical trainees the basic skills required to effectively perform laparoscopic surgery; however, consideration needs to be given to how well the skills taught by these simulators are maintained over time. This study compared the maintenance of laparoscopic skills learned using box trainer and virtual reality simulators.

Design: Participants were randomly allocated to be trained and assessed using either the Society of American Gastrointestinal Endoscopic Surgeons Fundamentals of Laparoscopic Surgery (FLS) simulator or the Surgical Science virtual reality simulator. Once participants achieved a predetermined level of proficiency, they were assessed 1, 3, and 6 months later. At each assessment, participants were given 2 practice attempts and assessed on their third attempt.

Setting: The study was conducted through the Simulated Surgical Skills Program that was held at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, Adelaide, Australia.

Results: Overall, 26 participants (13 per group) completed the training and all follow-up assessments. There were no significant differences between simulation-trained cohorts for age, gender, training level, and the number of surgeries previously performed, observed, or assisted. Scores for the FLS-trained participants did not significantly change over the follow-up period. Scores for LapSim-trained participants significantly deteriorated at the first 2 follow-up points (1 and 3 months) (p < 0.050), but returned to be near initial levels by the final follow-up (6 months).

Conclusions: This research showed that basic laparoscopic skills learned using the FLS simulator were maintained more consistently than those learned on the LapSim simulator. However, by the final follow-up, both simulator-trained cohorts had skill levels that were not significantly different to those at proficiency after the initial training period.

Keywords: Medical Knowledge; Practice-Based Learning and Improvement; Systems-Based Practice; education; laparoscopy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Laparoscopy / education*
  • Male
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • User-Computer Interface*