Objective: Using eye-tracking technology, we aim to examine if there are common patterns of visual attention strategies employed by surgeons which are associated with a greater chance of successful reorientation when disorientated during laparoscopic cholecystectomy.
Summary Background Data: Laparoscopic cholecystectomy is one of the most commonly practiced and minimally invasive procedures with a recognized morbidity relating to bile duct injuries. It has been suggested that the majority of bile duct injuries occur as a result of operator disorientation.
Methods: A total of 21 surgeons of varying experience participated in the study. Attention as represented by gaze was captured, as subjects were presented with 8 images of various stages of a laparoscopic cholecystectomy with the task of interpreting the orientation of the image. Subject fixations on relevant anatomic structures within the images were analyzed and a visual behavior profiling algorithm was applied to compare the behavior of individual surgeons.
Results: No difference in orientation performance between seniority levels or with laparoscopic experience was found. Key structures used as “anchor objects” to successfully orientate at various stages of a laparoscopic cholecystectomy were unveiled, and a representative successful visual attention behavior for each stage of the operation was described.
Conclusion: There are discernable and quantifiable visual attention strategies used by surgeons during laparoscopic cholecystectomy associated with successful orientation. By quantifying visual behavior and by inference attention processes of surgeons, this study represents an initial step in attempting to decrease the morbidity associated with disorientation. This study raises some important questions. First, can these common reorientation strategies be taught to aspiring surgeons as part of a curriculum thereby decreasing the learning curve associated with the apparent need for experience in laparoscopy? Second, can these common reorientation strategies be taught to those surgeons who consistently performed below average to increase their performance?