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Surgical tooltip motion metrics assessment using virtual marker: an objective approach to skill assessment for minimally invasive surgery.

PURPOSE: Surgical skill assessment has primarily been performed using checklists or rating scales, which are prone to bias and subjectivity. To tackle this shortcoming, assessment of surgical tool motion can be implemented to objectively classify skill levels. Due to the challenges involved in motion tracking of surgical tooltips in minimally invasive surgeries, formerly used assessment approaches may not be feasible for real-world skill assessment. We proposed an assessment approach based on the virtual marker on surgical tooltips to derive the tooltip's 3D position and introduced a novel metric for surgical skill assessment.

METHODS: We obtained the 3D tooltip position based on markers placed on the tool handle. Then, we derived tooltip motion metrics to identify the metrics differentiating the skill levels for objective surgical skill assessment. We proposed a new tooltip motion metric, i.e., motion inconsistency, that can assess the skill level, and also can evaluate the stage of skill learning. In this study, peg transfer, dual transfer, and rubber band translocation tasks were included, and nine novices, five surgical residents and five attending general surgeons participated.

RESULTS: Our analyses showed that tooltip path length (p [Formula: see text] 0.007) and path length along the instrument axis (p [Formula: see text] 0.014) differed across the three skill levels in all the tasks and decreased by skill level. Tooltip motion inconsistency showed significant differences among the three skill levels in the dual transfer (p [Formula: see text] 0.025) and the rubber band translocation tasks (p [Formula: see text] 0.021). Lastly, bimanual dexterity differed across the three skill levels in all the tasks (p [Formula: see text] 0.012) and increased by skill level.

CONCLUSION: Depth perception ability (indicated by shorter tooltip path lengths along the instrument axis), bimanual dexterity, tooltip motion consistency, and economical tooltip movements (shorter tooltip path lengths) are related to surgical skill. Our findings can contribute to objective surgical skill assessment, reducing subjectivity, bias, and associated costs.

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