Laparoscopic surgical skills training: an investigation of the potential of using surgeons' visual search behaviour as a performance indicator

Laparoscopic surgery is a difficult perceptual-motor task and effective and efficient training in the technique is important. Viewing previously recorded laparoscopic operations is a possible available training technique for surgeons to increase their knowledge of such minimal access surgery (MAS). It is not well known whether this is a useful technique, how effective it is or what effect it has on the surgeon watching the recorded video. As part of an on-going series of studies into laparoscopic surgery, an experiment was conducted to examine whether surgical skill level has an effect on the visual search behaviour of individuals of different surgical experience when they examine such imagery. Medically naive observers, medical students, junior surgeons and experienced surgeons viewed a laparoscopic recording of a recent operation. Initial examination of the recorded eye movement data indicated commonalities between all observers, largely irrespective of surgical experience. This, it is argued, is due to visual search in this situation largely being driven by the dynamic nature of the images. The data were then examined in terms of surgical steps and also in terms of interventions when differences were found related to surgical experience. Consequently, it is argued that monitoring the eye movements of trainee surgeons whilst they watch pre-recorded operations is a potential useful adjunct to existing training regimes.