Simulation for skills training in neurosurgery: a systematic review, meta-analysis, and analysis of progressive scholarly acceptance

Joseph Davids, Susruta Manivannan, Ara Darzi, Stamatia Giannarou, Hutan Ashrafian & Hani J Marcus

Neurosurgical Review (2020) – 18 September 2020

Abstract – At a time of significant global unrest and uncertainty surrounding how the delivery of clinical training will unfold over the coming years, we offer a systematic review, meta-analysis, and bibliometric analysis of global studies showing the crucial role simulation will play in training. Our aim was to determine the types of simulators in use, their effectiveness in improving clinical skills, and whether we have reached a point of global acceptance. A PRISMA-guided global systematic review of the neurosurgical simulators available, a meta-analysis of their effectiveness, and an extended analysis of their progressive scholarly acceptance on studies meeting our inclusion criteria of simulation in neurosurgical education were performed. Improvement in procedural knowledge and technical skills was evaluated. Of the identified 7405 studies, 56 studies met the inclusion criteria, collectively reporting 50 simulator types ranging from cadaveric, low-fidelity, and part-task to virtual reality (VR) simulators. In all, 32 studies were included in the meta-analysis, including 7 randomized controlled trials. A random effects, ratio of means effects measure quantified statistically significant improvement in procedural knowledge by 50.2% (ES 0.502; CI 0.355; 0.649, p < 0.001), technical skill including accuracy by 32.5% (ES 0.325; CI − 0.482; − 0.167, p < 0.001), and speed by 25% (ES − 0.25, CI − 0.399; − 0.107, p < 0.001). The initial number of VR studies (n = 91) was approximately double the number of refining studies (n = 45) indicating it is yet to reach progressive scholarly acceptance. There is strong evidence for a beneficial impact of adopting simulation in the improvement of procedural knowledge and technical skill. We show a growing trend towards the adoption of neurosurgical simulators, although we have not fully gained progressive scholarly acceptance for VR-based simulation technologies in neurosurgical education.