Technical surgical skills are said to be acquired quicker on a robotic rather than laparoscopic platform. However, research examining this proposition is scarce. Thus, this study aimed to compare the performance and learning curves of novices acquiring skills using a robotic or laparoscopic system, and to examine if any learning advantages were maintained over time and transferred to more difficult and stressful tasks. Forty novice participants were randomly assigned to either a robotic- or laparoscopic-trained group. Following one baseline trial on a ball pick-and-drop task, participants performed 50 learning trials. Participants then completed an immediate retention trial and a transfer trial on a two-instrument rope-threading task. One month later, participants performed a delayed retention trial and a stressful multi-tasking trial. The results revealed that the robotic-trained group completed the ball pick-and-drop task more quickly and accurately than the laparoscopic-trained group across baseline, immediate retention, and delayed retention trials. Furthermore, the robotic-trained group displayed a shorter learning curve for accuracy. The robotic-trained group also performed the more complex rope-threading and stressful multi-tasking transfer trials better. Finally, in the multi-tasking trial, the robotic-trained group made fewer tone counting errors. The results highlight the benefits of using robotic technology for the acquisition of technical surgical skills.
Keywords: Laparoscopic surgery; Learning curves; Multi-tasking; Performance; Robotic surgery; Skill acquisition.