Objective assessment of surgical technique is currently impossible. A virtual reality simulator for laparoscopic surgery (MIST VR) models the movements needed to perform minimally invasive surgery and can generate a score for various aspects of psychomotor skill. Two studies were performed using the simulator: first to assess surgeons of different surgical experience to validate the scoring system; second to assess in a randomised controlled way, the effect of a standard laparoscopic surgery training course. Experienced surgeons (> 100 laparoscopic cholecystectomies) were significantly more efficient, made less correctional submovements and completed the virtual reality tasks faster than trainee surgeons or non-surgeons. The training course caused an improvement in efficiency and a reduction in errors, without a significant increase in speed when compared with the control group. The MIST VR simulator can objectively assess a number of desirable qualities in laparoscopic surgery, and can distinguish between experienced and novice surgeons. We have also quantified the beneficial effect of a structured training course on psychomotor skill acquisition.
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