Laparoscopic Motor Learning and Workspace Exploration

J Surg Educ. 2016 Nov-Dec;73(6):992-998. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2016.05.001. Epub 2016 Jun 16.


Background: Laparoscopic surgery requires operators to learn novel complex movement patterns. However, our understanding of how best to train surgeons' motor skills is inadequate, and research is needed to determine optimal laparoscopic training regimes. This difficulty is confounded by variables inherent in surgical practice, for example, the increasing prevalence of morbidly obese patients presents additional challenges related to restriction of movement because of abdominal wall resistance and reduced intra-abdominal space. The aim of this study was to assess learning of a surgery-related task in constrained and unconstrained conditions using a novel system linking a commercially available robotic arm with specialised software creating the novel kinematic assessment tool (Omni-KAT).

Methods: We created an experimental tool that records motor performance by linking a commercially available robotic arm with specialized software that presents visual stimuli and objectively measures movement outcome (kinematics). Participants were given the task of generating aiming movements along a horizontal plane to move a visual cursor on a vertical screen. One group received training that constrained movements to the correct plane, whereas the other group was unconstrained and could explore the entire "action space."

Results: The tool successfully generated the requisite force fields and precisely recorded the aiming movements. Consistent with predictions from structural learning theory, the unconstrained group produced better performance after training as indexed by movement duration (p < 0.05).

Conclusion: The data showed improved performance for participants who explored the entire action space, highlighting the importance of learning the full dynamics of laparoscopic instruments. These findings, alongside the development of the Omni-KAT, open up exciting prospects for better understanding of the learning processes behind surgical training and investigate ways in which learning can be optimized.

Keywords: Patient Care; Practice-Based Learning and Improvement; Professionalism; kinematic; laparoscopy; motor control; motor learning; structural learning; surgery.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Education, Medical, Graduate / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Laparoscopy / methods*
  • Male
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Reference Values
  • Workplace
  • Young Adult