Some commercial simulators are available for training basic arthroscopic skills. However, it is unclear if these simulators allow training for their intended purposes and whether the perception of usefulness relates to level of experience.
We addressed the following questions: (1) Do commercial simulators have construct (times to perform tasks) and face validity (realism), and (2) is the perception of usefulness (educational value and user-friendliness) related to level of experience?
We evaluated two commercially available virtual reality simulators (Simulators A and B) and recruited 11 and nine novices (no arthroscopies), four and four intermediates (one to 59 arthroscopies), and seven and nine experts (> 60 arthroscopies) to test the devices. To assess construct validity, we recorded the median time per experience group for each of five repetitions of one identical navigation task. To assess face validity, we used a questionnaire to judge up to three simulator characteristic tasks; the questionnaire asked about the realism, perception of educational value, and perception of user-friendliness.
We observed partial construct validity for Simulators A and B and considered face validity satisfactory for both simulators for simulating the outer appearance and human joint, but barely satisfactory for the instruments. Simulators A and B had equal educational value according to the participants. User-friendliness was judged better for Simulator B although both were graded satisfactory. The perception of usefulness did not differ with level of experience.
Our observations suggest training on either simulator is reasonable preparation for real-life arthroscopy, although there is room for improvement for both simulators.
These simulators provide training in surgical skills without compromising patient safety.