Virtual reality simulators: current status in acquisition and assessment of surgical skills

Peter H. Cosman*, Patrick C. Cregan, Christopher J. Martin, John A. Cartmill

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

86 Citations (Scopus)


Medical technology is currently evolving so rapidly that its impact cannot be analysed. Robotics and telesurgery loom on the horizon, and the technology used to drive these advances has serendipitous side-effects for the education and training arena. The graphical and haptic interfaces used to provide remote feedback to the operator - by passing control to a computer - may be used to generate simulations of the operative environment that are useful for training candidates in surgical procedures. One additional advantage is that the metrics calculated inherently in the controlling software in order to run the simulation may be used to provide performance feedback to individual trainees and mentors. New interfaces will be required to undergo evaluation of the simulation fidelity before being deemed acceptable. The potential benefits fall into one of two general categories: those benefits related to skill acquisition, and those related to skill assessment. The educational value of the simulation will require assessment, and comparison to currently available methods of training in any given procedure. It is also necessary to determine - by repeated trials - whether a given simulation actually measures the performance parameters it purports to measure. This trains the spotlight on what constitutes good surgical skill, and how it is to be objectively measured. Early results suggest that virtual reality simulators have an important role to play in this aspect of surgical training.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-34
Number of pages5
JournalANZ Journal of Surgery
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Clinical competence
  • Computer simulation
  • Computer-assisted instruction
  • Educational measurement
  • Equipment design
  • Medical education
  • Medical errors
  • Motor skills
  • Needs assessment
  • Surgery education


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