A randomized study conducted at UCLA to test the difference between VR and traditional surgical training found that medical students trained in VR scored significantly better than traditional methods.

Conducted at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California Los Angeles, a study titled Randomized, Controlled Trial of a Virtual Reality Tool to Teach Surgical Technique for Tibial Shaft Fracture Intramedullary Nailing examines the efficacy of VR surgical training for a specific procedure and set of equipment.

20 participants were randomly assigned into two groups of 10; one group would train with the Osso VR software using a VR headset and motion controllers, while the other group would follow traditional training with surgical technique guides.

Image courtesy Osso VR

After their training, participants conducted the procedure on an artificial training bone and their performance was filmed. A surgeon evaluator then ranked the performance of each participant across five categories of proficiency: Time and Motion, Instrument Handling, Knowledge of Instruments, Flow of Operation and Forward Planning, and Knowledge of Specific Procedure. The ‘blind’ evaluator didn’t know the training method of any of the participants.

Image courtesy Osso VR

The study found that the VR group performed significantly better in the surgical procedure across all categories, scoring 130% higher than those who trained with traditional methods. In addition to the proficiency measure, a procedure-specific checklist found that those in the VR group completed 38% more steps correctly and completed the procedure 20% faster.

SEE ALSO
Surgery Training Platform 'Osso VR' Now Used by 1,000 Surgeons Monthly

Though it’s a small-scale study limited to a single surgical procedure, the findings are quite compelling for Osso VR which has staked its business on the idea that VR training can make better surgeons.

“As an orthopaedic surgeon, it’s critical to me that our technology is evidence-based. As we roll out a completely new way to train, we want our users and customers to continue to see this platform as effective and reliable,” said Justin Barad, MD, CEO & co-founder of Osso VR. “These study results are just the beginning as we tackle one of the biggest challenges facing the healthcare industry today. Our goal is to unlock the value our providers and industry are working to bring to patients around the world.”

The study concludes that VR surgical training may play an important role for orthopaedic surgery education in the future, though long-term longitudinal studies across more procedures will be needed to truly vet the extent of its impact. The study was presented last week at the 2019 Western Orthopedic Association’s Annual Meeting but hasn’t been published in full yet.

Update (August 8th, 2019): We asked Osso VR about any conflicts of interest in the study. A spokesperson for the company said that Osso VR contributed to the design of the study but wasn’t involved in data collection of analysis of the results. Further, UCLA Orthopedics program direction Nelson F. SooHoo is listed among the study’s 12 authors;  he is part of the Osso VR scientific advisory board and holds stock options in the company.

This article may contain affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link and buy a product we may receive a small commission which helps support the publication. See here for more information.


  • dogtato

    This is one of the best use cases there is for vr. Can train any procedure they program, no setup of expensive physical props, and automatic analysis. Maybe they could pair it with the massless vr stylus for a nice virtual scalpel.

  • Michael Hill

    That’s an incredible difference in proficiency! Very impressive and promising.

  • Trenix

    Think of how much innovation VR will bring. Being able to create things out of nothing and testing it without wasting and using any physical resources. VR eventually will be as big as the creation of the internet. Just give it time. Imagine also all the business it’ll bring.