Technical mentorship during robot-assisted surgery: a cognitive analysis.

Hussein, A. A., S. B. Shafiei, M. Sharif, E. Esfahani, B. Ahmad, J. D. Kozlowski, Z. Hashmi, and K. A. Guru, "Technical mentorship during robot-assisted surgery: a cognitive analysis.", BJU international, vol. 118, issue 3, pp. 429-36, 2016 Sep.


OBJECTIVE: To investigate cognitive and mental workload assessments, which may play a critical role in defining successful mentorship.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: The 'Mind Maps' project aimed at evaluating cognitive function with regard to surgeon's expertise and trainee's skills. The study included electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings of a mentor observing trainee surgeons in 20 procedures involving extended lymph node dissection (eLND) or urethrovesical anastomosis (UVA), with simultaneous assessment of trainees using the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Task Load index (NASA-TLX) questionnaire. We also compared the brain activity of the mentor during this study with his own brain activity while actually performing the same surgical steps from previous procedures populated in the 'Mind Maps' project.

RESULTS: During eLND and UVA, when the mentor thought the trainee's mental demand and effort were low based on his NASA-TLX questionnaire (not satisfied with his performance), his EEG-based mental workload increased (reflecting more concern and attention). The mentor was mentally engaged and concerned while he was engrossed in observing the surgery. This was further supported by the finding that there was no significant difference in the mental demands and workload between observing and operating for the expert surgeon.

CONCLUSIONS: This study objectively evaluated the cognitive engagement of a surgical mentor teaching technical skills during surgery. The study provides a deeper understanding of how surgical teaching actually works and opens new horizons for assessment and teaching of surgery. Further research is needed to study the feasibility of this novel concept in assessment and guidance of surgical performance.