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Surgeons Train With Wii

Don’t worry about that guy about to operate on your gallbladder. He trained on the Wii.

According to a very small, very preliminary study, playing certain video games on the Nintendo Wii helps surgical residents to hone their fine motor skills and improve their performance on a serious surgery simulator.

OK, so a simple video game helps these docs with a slightly more complicated one. But bear with us here because the more sophisticated simulator is the sort of thing that’s used right now to help doctors do a better job on keyhole surgery using tiny instruments outfitted with video cameras.

Improvements in simulator performance didn’t come from just any Wii (see image), or any game. Marble Mania is good, for example. Tennis (astonishingly fun to play on the Wii, which uses a motion-sensitive wireless control) isn’t so helpful. “The key is to have subtle hand movements,” Kanav Kahol one of the authors of the study, told the Health Blog. “You can’t hit a tennis swing and expect to become a better surgeon. You need fine motor control.”

Kahol, a biomedical informatics expert affiliated with Arizona State and a hospital chain called Banner Health, worked with Marshall Smith, a Banner surgeon, to see if playing the Wii (Wii-ing?) improved residents’ scores on a standard simulator for minimally invasive, or laparoscopic, surgery.

From the Wall Street Journal Health Blog

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