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BACKGROUND: Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR) has been used in surgery for several decades. Over the past 5-10 years, however, new technological advances, including high-resolution screens, mobile graphical processing units (mGPUs) and position-sensing technologies, have been incorporated into relatively low-cost VR and AR devices. This review focuses on the current impact of the application of these "Phase 2" VR/AR technology in surgical training. METHODS: A narrative literature review was undertaken using PubMed and Web of Science to identify comparative studies related to the impact of Phase 2 VR or AR tools on surgical training, defined in terms of the acquisition of technical surgical skills. Eleven studies on the effectiveness of VR/AR in surgical education were identified for full review. Further, the grey literature was searched for articles describing the current state of VR/AR in surgical education. A quality analysis using the Newcastle Ottawa scale showed a median score of 7 (out of a maximum achievable score of 9). RESULTS: All studies showed a positive association between the use of VR/AR in surgical training and skill acquisition in terms of improving the speed of acquisition of surgical skills, the surgeon's ability to multitask, the ability to perform a procedure accurately, hand-eye coordination and bimanual operation. The grey literature presented a common, positive theme of the benefits of VR/AR in surgical training. CONCLUSIONS: Based on the limited evidence available, VR/AR appears to have positive training benefits in improving the speed of acquisition of surgical skills. However, the significant heterogeneity in study methodology and the relative recency of wider VR/AR adoption in surgical training mean that only tentative conclusions can be drawn at this stage. Further research, ideally with large sample sizes, robust outcome measures and longer follow-up periods, is recommended.


Journal article


Surg Technol Int

Publication Date





27 - 35


General Surgery, User-Computer Interface, Virtual Reality