Virtual reality training improves trainee performance in total hip arthroplasty: a randomized controlled trial

Bone Joint J. 2019 Dec;101-B(12):1585-1592. doi: 10.1302/0301-620X.101B12.BJJ-2019-0643.R1.


Aims: Arthroplasty skills need to be acquired safely during training, yet operative experience is increasingly hard to acquire by trainees. Virtual reality (VR) training using headsets and motion-tracked controllers can simulate complex open procedures in a fully immersive operating theatre. The present study aimed to determine if trainees trained using VR perform better than those using conventional preparation for performing total hip arthroplasty (THA).

Patients and methods: A total of 24 surgical trainees (seven female, 17 male; mean age 29 years (28 to 31)) volunteered to participate in this observer-blinded 1:1 randomized controlled trial. They had no prior experience of anterior approach THA. Of these 24 trainees, 12 completed a six-week VR training programme in a simulation laboratory, while the other 12 received only conventional preparatory materials for learning THA. All trainees then performed a cadaveric THA, assessed independently by two hip surgeons. The primary outcome was technical and non-technical surgical performance measured by a THA-specific procedure-based assessment (PBA). Secondary outcomes were step completion measured by a task-specific checklist, error in acetabular component orientation, and procedure duration.

Results: VR-trained surgeons performed at a higher level than controls, with a median PBA of Level 3a (procedure performed with minimal guidance or intervention) versus Level 2a (guidance required for most/all of the procedure or part performed). VR-trained surgeons completed 33% more key steps than controls (mean 22 (sd 3) vs 12 (sd 3)), were 12° more accurate in component orientation (mean error 4° (sd 6°) vs 16° (sd 17°)), and were 18% faster (mean 42 minutes (sd 7) vs 51 minutes (sd 9)).

Conclusion: Procedural knowledge and psychomotor skills for THA learned in VR were transferred to cadaveric performance. Basic preparatory materials had limited value for trainees learning a new technique. VR training advanced trainees further up the learning curve, enabling highly precise component orientation and more efficient surgery. VR could augment traditional surgical training to improve how surgeons learn complex open procedures. Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2019;101-B:1585-1592.

Keywords: Hip arthroplasty; Simulation; Training; Virtual reality.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arthroplasty, Replacement, Hip / education*
  • Clinical Competence
  • Education, Medical, Graduate / methods*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Learning Curve
  • London
  • Male
  • Orthopedics / education*
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Simulation Training / methods*
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Virtual Reality*