Can video games enhance surgical skills acquisition for medical students? A systematic review

Published:January 05, 2021DOI:



      To systematically assess literature examining the impact of being a gamer or participating in video-game–based training on surgical skills acquisition amongst medical students.


      Video games and surgical procedures share similar skills such as visuospatial abilities and hand-eye coordination; therefore, video games can be a valuable tool for surgical training amongst medical students. However, comprehensive, up-to-date systematic reviews are necessary to confirm.


      A systematic literature search of PubMed, MEDLINE, and EMBASE was performed in April 2020 with no limits set on the date of publication. Observational and randomized controlled studies were included. Quality and bias were assessed using the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale for nonrandomized studies and the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation system for randomized studies.


      A total of 575 participants from 16 studies were included. The most common surgical skills tested were laparoscopy (n = 283, from 8 studies) and robotic surgery (n = 199, from 5 studies). A history of gaming and video-game–based training were associated with improved metrics in robotic surgery and laparoscopy, respectively. Neither was beneficial in arthroscopy or bronchoscopy. Studies using the Wii U and Underground reported significant improvement in overall laparoscopic performance.


      Video games demonstrate potential as adjunctive training in surgical skill education, with a history of gaming and video-game–based training being beneficial in robotic surgery and laparoscopy, respectively. Methodological heterogeneity amongst included studies limit the ability to make conclusive decisions; thus, future studies with long-term follow-up, larger sample sizes, outcomes stratified by video-game characteristics, and up-to-date technology are necessary.
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