Improving Residency Training in Arthroscopic Knee Surgery with Use of a Virtual-Reality Simulator: A Randomized Blinded Study


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Abstract

Background:There is a paucity of articles in the surgical literature demonstrating transfer validity (transfer of training). The purpose of this study was to assess whether skills learned on the ArthroSim virtual-reality arthroscopic knee simulator transferred to greater skill levels in the operating room.Methods:Postgraduate year-3 orthopaedic residents were randomized into simulator-trained and control groups at seven academic institutions. The experimental group trained on the simulator, performing a knee diagnostic arthroscopy procedure to a predetermined proficiency level based on the average proficiency of five community-based orthopaedic surgeons performing the same procedure on the simulator. The residents in the control group continued their institution-specific orthopaedic education and training. Both groups then performed a diagnostic knee arthroscopy procedure on a live patient. Video recordings of the arthroscopic surgery were analyzed by five pairs of expert arthroscopic surgeons blinded to the identity of the residents. A proprietary global rating scale and a procedural checklist, which included visualization and probing scales, were used for rating.Results:Forty-eight (89%) of the fifty-four postgraduate year-3 residents from seven academic institutions completed the study. The simulator-trained group averaged eleven hours of training on the simulator to reach proficiency. The simulator-trained group performed significantly better when rated according to our procedural checklist (p = 0.031), including probing skills (p = 0.016) but not visualization skills (p = 0.34), compared with the control group. The procedural checklist weighted probing skills double the weight of visualization skills. The global rating scale failed to reach significance (p = 0.061) because of one extreme outlier. The duration of the procedure was not significant. This lack of a significant difference seemed to be related to the fact that residents in the control group were less thorough, which shortened their time to completion of the arthroscopic procedure.Conclusions:We have demonstrated transfer validity (transfer of training) that residents trained to proficiency on a high-fidelity realistic virtual-reality arthroscopic knee simulator showed a greater skill level in the operating room compared with the control group.Clinical Relevance:We believe that the results of our study will stimulate residency program directors to incorporate surgical simulation into the core curriculum of their residency programs.

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