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Researchers use Nintendo Wii to help inexperienced surgeons improve skills

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Novice surgeons who spend time playing a Nintendo Wii perform better in simulations than those who don't, according to a recent study reported by NPR.

Italian researchers made 21 surgical residents play Wii one hour a day, five days a week for a month. Afterwards, residents performed a simulated keyhole, or laparoscopic, surgery — a procedure where a surgeon inserts small video cameras into the body. Researchers found that those who played Wii performed better than those that hadn't.

According to Dr. Gregoria Patrizi, a professor at the University of Rome Medical School who was involved with the study, the Wii offers viable practice.

"You have to move in a three-dimensional space but you have a two-dimensional image on your screen [during laparoscopic surgery]," Patrizi said. For those unfamiliar with staring at a monitor during an opearation, it can be tricky.

According to Dr. Brant Oelschlager, chief of the University of Washington's Center for Videoendoscopic Surgery, this practice is probably better suited for a novice due to "overlap" in the learning process.

"I'm skeptical that at an advanced level that would help the surgeon become better," Oelschlager said. "At some point, it starts to have diminishing returns and you have to gain the rest of your skills in a real patient."

Video games continue to expand into many new avenues, including promoting healthy living and helping patients develop motor skills.