Using AI and computer vision to analyze technical proficiency in robotic surgery

Surg Endosc. 2023 Apr;37(4):3010-3017. doi: 10.1007/s00464-022-09781-y. Epub 2022 Dec 19.


Background: Intraoperative skills assessment is time-consuming and subjective; an efficient and objective computer vision-based approach for feedback is desired. In this work, we aim to design and validate an interpretable automated method to evaluate technical proficiency using colorectal robotic surgery videos with artificial intelligence.

Methods: 92 curated clips of peritoneal closure were characterized by both board-certified surgeons and a computer vision AI algorithm to compare the measures of surgical skill. For human ratings, six surgeons graded clips according to the GEARS assessment tool; for AI assessment, deep learning computer vision algorithms for surgical tool detection and tracking were developed and implemented.

Results: For the GEARS category of efficiency, we observe a positive correlation between human expert ratings of technical efficiency and AI-determined total tool movement (r = - 0.72). Additionally, we show that more proficient surgeons perform closure with significantly less tool movement compared to less proficient surgeons (p < 0.001). For the GEARS category of bimanual dexterity, a positive correlation between expert ratings of bimanual dexterity and the AI model's calculated measure of bimanual movement based on simultaneous tool movement (r = 0.48) was also observed. On average, we also find that higher skill clips have significantly more simultaneous movement in both hands compared to lower skill clips (p < 0.001).

Conclusions: In this study, measurements of technical proficiency extracted from AI algorithms are shown to correlate with those given by expert surgeons. Although we target measurements of efficiency and bimanual dexterity, this work suggests that artificial intelligence through computer vision holds promise for efficiently standardizing grading of surgical technique, which may help in surgical skills training.

Keywords: Artificial intelligence; Colorectal surgery; Computer vision; GEARS; Robotic surgery; Skills assessment.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Clinical Competence
  • Computers
  • Humans
  • Robotic Surgical Procedures* / methods
  • Surgeons* / education