The Role of Augmented Reality in Surgical Training: A Systematic Review

Surg Innov. 2023 Jun;30(3):366-382. doi: 10.1177/15533506221140506. Epub 2022 Nov 22.


This review aims to provide an update on the role of augmented reality (AR) in surgical training and investigate whether the use of AR improves performance measures compared to traditional approaches in surgical trainees.

PUBMED, EMBASE, Google Scholar, Cochrane Library, British Library and Science Direct were searched following PRIMSA guidelines. All English language original studies pertaining to AR in surgical training were eligible for inclusion. Qualitative analysis was performed and results were categorised according to simulator models, subsequently being evaluated using Messick's framework for validity and McGaghie's translational outcomes for simulation-based learning.

Of the 1132 results retrieved, 45 were included in the study. 29 platforms were identified, with the highest 'level of effectiveness' recorded as 3. In terms of validity parameters, 10 AR models received a strong 'content validity' score of 2.15 models had a 'response processes' score ≥ 1. 'Internal structure' and 'consequences' were largely not discussed. 'Relations to other variables' was the best assessed criterion, with 9 platforms achieving a high score of 2. Overall, the Microsoft HoloLens received the highest level of recommendation for both validity and level of effectiveness.

Augmented reality in surgical education is feasible and effective as an adjunct to traditional training. The Microsoft HoloLens has shown the most promising results across all parameters and produced improved performance measures in surgical trainees. In terms of the other simulator models, further research is required with stronger study designs, in order to validate the use of AR in surgical training.

Keywords: gynecologic laparoscopy; neurosurgery; orthopedic surgery; simulation; surgical education; urology; vascular surgery.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Augmented Reality*
  • Clinical Competence
  • Computer Simulation