BACKGROUND: Laparoscopy requires specific psychomotor skills and can be challenging to learn. Most proficiency-based laparoscopic training programs have used non-haptic virtual reality simulators; however, haptic simulators can provide the tactile sensations that the surgeon would experience in the operating room. The objective was to investigate the effect of adding haptic simulators to a proficiency-based laparoscopy training program.
METHODS: A randomized controlled trial was designed where residents (n = 36) were randomized to proficiency-based laparoscopic simulator training using haptic or non-haptic simulators. Subsequently, participants from the haptic group completed a follow-up test, where they had to reach proficiency again using the non-haptic simulator. Participants from the non-haptic group returned to train until reaching proficiency again using the non-haptic simulator.
RESULTS: Mean completion times during the intervention were 120 min (SD 38.7 min) and 183 min (SD 66.3 min) for the haptic group and the non-haptic group, respectively (p = 0.001). The mean times to proficiency during the follow-up test were 107 min (SD 41.0 min) and 58 min (SD 23.7 min) for the haptic and the non-haptic group, respectively (p < 0.001). The haptic group was not faster to reach proficiency in the follow-up test than during the intervention (p = 0.22). In contrast, the non-haptic group reached the required proficiency level significantly faster in the follow-up test (p < 0.001).
CONCLUSION: Haptic virtual reality simulators reduce the time to reach proficiency compared to non-haptic simulators. However, the acquired skills are not transferable to the conventional non-haptic setting.