Robotic versus conventional laparoscopic skill acquisition: implications for training.



Despite the growing interest in surgical robotics, very little study has been done regarding the acquisition of the skills needed to perform robotic surgery safely. The purpose of this study was to determine whether skills are transferred between conventional laparoscopy and robotically assisted surgery.


Intracorporeal knot tying was used for evaluating laparoscopic skills for time and error performance. Twenty medical students without any laparoscopic experience were randomized into two groups. Group A initially performed knot tying with conventional laparoscopic instruments, were trained with the daVinci Robotic System, and then performed knot tying with conventional laparoscopy. Group B performed knot tying with robotics, trained with standard laparoscopy, and completed post-training knot tying with robotics. Pretraining and post-training tasks were videotaped and analyzed using a detailed scoring system by one independent referee, who was blinded to the subjects’ experience.


Pre-training knot tying was faster with robotics (4.4 v 9.9 minutes; P < 0.001). The mean composite scores were 27.4 for group A and 57.4 for group B (P = 0.09), and the error scores were 57.1 and 42.1 (P = 0.29), respectively. Post-training time for knot completion decreased to 6.7 minutes and 3.4 minutes for groups A and B, respectively. Composite scores increased significantly, from 27.4 to 66.1 for group A and 57.4 to 81.8 for group B. Error scores decreased to 32.9 for group A (P = 0.1) and 16.2 in group B (P = 0.02).


There appears to be reciprocal transfer of skills between conventional laparoscopy and robotically assisted surgery. However, this transference is incomplete. Our results suggest that training with either technique or conventional laparoscopy is superior to training with robotics alone.