Visual search behaviour during laparoscopic cadaveric procedures

Laparoscopic surgery provides a very complex example of medical image interpretation. The task entails: visually examining a display that portrays the laparoscopic procedure from a varying viewpoint; eye-hand co-ordination; complex 3D interpretation of the 2D display imagery; efficient and safe usage of appropriate surgical tools, as well as other factors. Training in laparoscopic surgery typically entails practice using surgical simulators. Another approach is to use cadavers. Viewing previously recorded laparoscopic operations is also a viable additional approach and to examine this a study was undertaken to determine what differences exist between where surgeons look during actual operations and where they look when simply viewing the same pre-recorded operations. It was hypothesised that there would be differences related to the different experimental conditions; however the relative nature of such differences was unknown. The visual search behaviour of two experienced surgeons was recorded as they performed three types of laparoscopic operations on a cadaver. The operations were also digitally recorded. Subsequently they viewed the recording of their operations, again whilst their eye movements were monitored. Differences were found in various eye movement parameters when the two surgeons performed the operations and where they looked when they simply watched the recordings of the operations. It is argued that this reflects the different perceptual motor skills pertinent to the different situations. The relevance of this for surgical training is explored.