The value of collision feedback in robotic surgical skills training

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Collision feedback about instrument and environment interaction is often lacking in robotic surgery training devices. The PoLaRS virtual reality simulator is a newly developed desk trainer that overcomes drawbacks of existing robot trainers for advanced laparoscopy. This study aimed to assess the effect of haptic and visual feedback during training on the performance of a robotic surgical task. Robotic surgery-naïve participants were randomized and equally divided into two training groups: Haptic and Visual Feedback (HVF) and No Haptic and Visual Feedback. Participants performed two basic virtual reality training tasks on the PoLaRS system as a pre- and post-test. The measurement parameters Time, Tip-to-tip distance, Path length Left/Right and Collisions Left/Right were used to analyze the learning curves and statistically compare the pre- and post-tests performances. In total, 198 trials performed by 22 participants were included. The visual and haptic feedback did not negatively influence the time to complete the tasks. Although no improvement in skill was observed between pre- and post-tests, the mean rank of the number of collisions of the right grasper (dominant hand) was significantly lower in the HVF feedback group during the second post-test (Mean Rank = 8.73 versus Mean Rank = 14.27, U = 30.00, p = 0.045). Haptic and visual feedback during the training on the PoLaRS system resulted in fewer instrument collisions. These results warrant the introduction of haptic feedback in subjects with no experience in robotic surgery. The PoLaRS system can be utilized to remotely optimize instrument handling before commencing robotic surgery in the operating room.