The SEP "Robot"™:
A Valid Virtual Reality Robotic Simulator
for the Da Vinci Surgical System?
O.A.J. van der Meijden, M.D.
Department of Orthopaedic Surgery
Medical Center Alkmaar
Alkmaar, The Netherlands
I.A.M.J. Broeders, M.D.
Institute of Technical Medicine
Department of Surgery
Meander Medical Centre
M.P. Schijven, M.D.
Department of Surgery
Academic Medical Center Amsterdam
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
The aim of the study was to determine if the concept of face and construct validity may apply to the SurgicalSim Educational Platform (SEP) "robot" simulator. The SEP robot simulator is a virtual reality (VR) simulator aiming to train users on the Da Vinci Surgical System. To determine the SEP's face validity, two questionnaires were constructed. First, a questionnaire was sent to users of the Da Vinci system (reference group) to determine a focused user-group opinion and their recommendations concerning VR-based training applications for robotic surgery. Next, clinical specialists were requested to complete a pre-tested face validity questionnaire after performing a suturing task on the SEP robot simulator. To determine the SEP's construct validity, outcome parameters of the suturing task were compared, for example, relative to participants' endoscopic experience. Correlations between endoscopic experience and outcome parameters of the performed suturing task were tested for significance. On an ordinal five-point, scale the average score for the quality of the simulator software was 3.4; for its hardware, 3.0. Over 80% agreed that it is important to train surgeons and surgical trainees to use the Da Vinci. There was a significant but marginal difference in tool tip trajectory (p = 0.050) and a nonsignificant difference in total procedure time (p = 0.138) in favor of the experienced group. In conclusion, the results of this study reflect a uniform positive opinion using VR training in robotic surgery. Concepts of face and construct validity of the SEP robotic simulator are present; however, these are not strong and need to be improved before implementation of the SEP robotic simulator in its present state for a validated training curriculum to be successful .