Design-Based Comparison of Spine Surgery Simulators: Optimizing Educational Features of Surgical Simulators

Won Hyung A. Ryu, Ahmed E. Mostafa, Navjit Dharampal, Ehud Sharlin, Gail Kopp, W. Bradley Jacobs, R. John Hurlbert, Sonny Chan, Garnette R. Sutherland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Background Simulation-based education has made its entry into surgical residency training, particularly as an adjunct to hands-on clinical experience. However, one of the ongoing challenges to wide adoption is the capacity of simulators to incorporate educational features required for effective learning. The aim of this study was to identify strengths and limitations of spine simulators to characterize design elements that are essential in enhancing resident education. Methods We performed a mixed qualitative and quantitative cohort study with a focused survey and interviews of stakeholders in spine surgery pertaining to their experiences on 3 spine simulators. Ten participants were recruited spanning all levels of training and expertise until qualitative analysis reached saturation of themes. Participants were asked to perform lumbar pedicle screw insertion on 3 simulators. Afterward, a 10-item survey was administrated and a focused interview was conducted to explore topics pertaining to the design features of the simulators. Results Overall impressions of the simulators were positive with regards to their educational benefit, but our qualitative analysis revealed differing strengths and limitations. Main design strengths of the computer-based simulators were incorporation of procedural guidance and provision of performance feedback. The synthetic model excelled in achieving more realistic haptic feedback and incorporating use of actual surgical tools. Discussion Stakeholders from trainees to experts acknowledge the growing role of simulation-based education in spine surgery. However, different simulation modalities have varying design elements that augment learning in distinct ways. Characterization of these design characteristics will allow for standardization of simulation curricula in spinal surgery, optimizing educational benefit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)870-877.e1
JournalWorld neurosurgery
StatePublished - Oct 2017


  • Resident education
  • Simulation design
  • Surgical simulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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