New discovery: This ‘black box’ recorder can measure surgeons’ proficiency

Scientists have developed a novel recorder similar in concept to a flight recorder on an airplane that can be used to objectively measure surgeons’ proficiency in robotic-assisted prostate cancer surgery.

The recorder, called the dVLogger developed by the US-based Intuitive Surgical, similar to the “black box” in flight would evaluate a surgeon’s proficiency in performing the surgery to ensure patient safety.

When attached to a robotic surgery system during radical prostatectomy procedures — the most common treatment for prostate cancer — the recorder would capture data that could be used to discern the difference between novice and expert surgeons, the study showed.

It captures both anonymised video and movement data.

“The dVLogger records the surgeon’s movements, capturing where the instruments are and how the surgeon is moving the instruments,” said lead author Andrew Hung, Assistant Professor at University of Southern California.

To measure the recorder’s ability, four basic prostate surgery steps were analysed. Data from 100 procedures performed by both novice and expert surgeons were recorded.

The results, forthcoming in The Journal of Urology, showed that novice and expert surgeons could be identified by measuring time to complete operative steps, distance of instrument and camera travel and frequency of camera movements.

“We now have an opportunity to put surgeon proficiency under the microscope and see what role it plays in patient outcomes,” Hung said.

“Creating a sustainable, objective method for evaluating surgeon proficiency and standardising credentialing is a way to help ensure patient safety,” he noted.


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