Virtual reality and haptic interfaces for civilian and military open trauma surgery training: A systematic review

Colin F Mackenzie, Tyler E Harris, Andrea G Shipper, Eric Elster, Mark W Bowyer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: Virtual (VR), augmented (AR), mixed reality (MR) and haptic interfaces make additional avenues available for surgeon assessment, guidance and training. We evaluated applications for open trauma and emergency surgery to address the question: Have new computer-supported interface developments occurred that could improve trauma training for civilian and military surgeons performing open, emergency, non-laparoscopic surgery?

DESIGN: Systematic literature review.

SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: Faculty, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore., Maryland; Womack Army Medical Center, Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland.

METHODS: Structured literature searches identified studies using terms for virtual, augmented, mixed reality and haptics, as well as specific procedures in trauma training courses. Reporting bias was assessed. Study quality was evaluated by the Kirkpatrick's Level of evidence and the Machine Learning to Asses Surgical Expertise (MLASE) score.

RESULTS: Of 422 papers identified, 14 met inclusion criteria, included 282 enrolled subjects, 20% were surgeons, the remainder students, medics and non-surgeon physicians. Study design was poor and sample sizes were low. No data analyses were beyond descriptive and the highest outcome types were procedural success, subjective self-reports, except three studies used validated metrics. Among the 14 studies, Kirkpatrick's level of evidence was level zero in five studies, level 1 in 8 and level 2 in one. Only one study had MLASE Score greater than 9/20. There was a high risk of bias in 6 studies, uncertain bias in 5 studies and low risk of bias in 3 studies.

CONCLUSIONS: There was inadequate evidence that VR,MR,AR or haptic interfaces can facilitate training for open trauma surgery or replace cadavers. Because of limited testing in surgeons, deficient study and technology design, risk of reporting bias, no current well-designed studies of computer-supported technologies have shown benefit for open trauma, emergency surgery nor has their use shown improved patient outcomes. Larger more rigorously designed studies and evaluations by experienced surgeons are required for a greater variety of procedures and skills.

COMPETENCIES: Medical Knowledge, Practice Based Learning and Improvement, Patient Care, Systems-Based Practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3575-3585
Number of pages11
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Humans
  • Clinical Competence
  • Military Personnel
  • Haptic Interfaces
  • Virtual Reality
  • Surgeons
  • User-Computer Interface


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