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Virtual reality (VR) is an emerging technology that can teach surgeons new procedures and can determine their level of competence before they operate on patients. Also VR allows the trainee to return to the same procedure or task several times later as a refresher course. Laparoscopic surgery is a new operative technique which requires the surgeon to observe the operation on a video-monitor and requires the acquisition of new skills. VR simulation could duplicate the operative field and thereby enhance training and reduce the need for expensive animal training models. Our preliminary experience has shown that we have the technology to model tissues and laparoscopic instruments and to develop in real time a VR learning environment for surgeons. Another basic need is to measure competence. Surgical training is an apprenticeship requiring close supervision and 5-7 years of training. Technical competence is judged by the mentor and has always been subjective. If VR surgical simulators are to play an important role in the future, quantitative measurement of competence would have to be part of the system. Because surgical competence is "vague" and is characterized by such terms as "too long, too short" or "too close, too far," it is possible that the principles of fuzzy logic could be used to measure competence in a VR surgical simulator. Because a surgical procedure consists of a series of tasks and each task is a series of steps, we will plan to create two important tasks in a VR simulator and validate their use. These tasks consist of laparoscopic knot tying and laparoscopic suturing. Our hypothesis is that VR in combination with fuzzy logic can educate surgeons and determine when they are competent to perform these procedures on patients.  

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