Nintendo Wii improves surgical skills of physicians


Nintendo-wiiFor decades, video games have been a great source of entertainment, especially for children.  Development of advanced gaming consoles like XBOX, Play Station and Nintendo Wii has revolutionized the video game industry.  Studies have not only confirmed the beneficial role of video games in treating disorders like obesity, stroke, Physical therapy and rehabilitation, but also in the training of healthcare professionals like surgeons.  It sounds astounding that by playing with the Nintendo Wii, surgeons can improve and fine tune their motor skills and performance.  

Researchers say that only certain games that require delicate and precise movements are effective in improving surgical skills. The whole point about surgery is to execute small, finely controlled movements with your hands, and that is exactly what you get by playing Wii.  The motion sensors in the wireless “Wiimote”, a controller similar in size and shape to a television remote control, allows players to direct on-screen action by waving or pointing at the screen.



Marble Mania (called Kororinpa in the UK)


Dr. Kanav Kohel and Dr. Marshall Smith, of a Banner Good Samaritan Medical Centre in Phoenix, Arizona, are developing a program that uses Nintendo functions to help trainees practice the specific physical movements involved in surgical procedures.


They asked eight doctors in training to play games on a Wii for an hour before performing a virtual surgery. They used a training tool called ProMIS, which simulates a patient’s body in 3D and tracks the surgeon’s movements as they operate. As a result those played Wii scored 48% higher on tool control and performance in the simulation than those who did not.


Kohel said that not the all games are effective, but the games like Marble Mania, which requires precise and almost imperceptible movements of the wrist to navigate a marble through tricky mazes, work the best.


Super Monkey Ball   supermonkey-ball


Dr. James Rosser Jr. a top surgeon and director of the Advanced Medical Technologies Institute at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, says that since 2001, he has been working with games like Super Monkey Ball (similar to Marble Mania‘s), developed for Nintendo’s GameCube console, to train doctors in laparoscopic surgery. His study reveals that physicians who played video games for three hours a week had 37% fewer errors and accomplished tasks 27% faster.

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Nintendo Wii as a scanner


The popular Nintendo Wii videogame system is helping radiology students reach new levels! Doctors at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center have found that the Wii remote makes examining of CT and MRI images, much more ergonomic, heightens the interactivity during classes, and may potentially improve the ability to interpret scans


Instead of spending hours at a time navigating through pictures using basic keyboard and mouse clicks, which can lead to repetitive motion injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, cycling through scans with the Wii is a matter of rotating the wrist.


In a future research, researchers are especially interested in using the console to teach robotic surgery, wherein surgeons can use robots for precise, minimally invasive procedures or to help patients at remote locations.




Researchers believe that there is really no accurate way to train surgeons in the operating room. There are surgery simulators, but these are very expensive. Therefore, Nintendo Wii offers at least two fold benefits: first: it provides virtual on-the-job training, which is cost effective and help surgeons improve their skills by practicing even at home.  Second, it plays a significant role in the medical education in the poor or developing countries, where there is less access to expensive training tools.  Medical tourism industry, which is expected to be $40 billion industry in 2010, will certainly appreciate effective methods to improve skills of physicians in developing countries that can reduce the cost of medical procedures, even further.


As current simulators are expensive and improvement shown by Wii in increasing efficiency (reducing error and/or procedure time) of procedure not only presents socio-economic benefit on the healthcare industry, but also offers promise to improve quality of patient’s health. Gaming research (Wii- search) is expanding at a rapid rate, and you will find a lot more products in the near future.  I will certainly keep an eye to see why and how games can improve the health of patients. Healthy Training!


Sources: thaindian/playingnintendo | foxnews/nintendowii | medtechhealth/nintendosurgeons 

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