Virtual pointer for gaze guidance in laparoscopic surgery

Yuanyuan Feng, Hannah McGowan, Azin Semsar, Hamid R. Zahiri, Ivan M. George, Adrian Park, Andrea Kleinsmith, Helena Mentis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: A challenge of laparoscopic surgery is learning how to interpret the indirect view of the operative field. Acquiring professional vision—understanding what to see and which information to attend to, is thereby an essential part of laparoscopic training and one in which trainers exert great effort to convey. We designed a virtual pointer (VP) that enables experts to point or draw free-hand sketches over an intraoperative laparoscopic video for a novice to see. This study aimed to investigate the efficacy of the virtual pointer in guiding novices’ gaze patterns. Methods: We conducted a counter-balanced, within-subject trial to compare the novices’ gaze behaviors in laparoscopic training with the virtual pointer compared to a standard training condition, i.e., verbal instruction with un-mediated gestures. In the study, seven trainees performed four simulated laparoscopic tasks guided by an experienced surgeon as the trainer. A Tobii Pro X3-120 eye-tracker was used to capture the trainees’ eye movements. The measures include fixation rate, i.e., the frequency of trainees’ fixations, saccade amplitude, and fixation concentration, i.e., the closeness of trainees’ fixations. Results: No significant difference in fixation rate or saccade amplitude was found between the virtual pointer condition and the standard condition. In the virtual pointer condition, trainees’ fixations were more concentrated (p = 0.039) and longer fixations were more clustered, compared to the Standard condition (p = 0.008). Conclusions: The virtual pointer effectively improved surgical trainees’ in-the-moment gaze focus during the laparoscopic training by reducing their gaze dispersion and concentrating their attention on the anatomical target. These results suggest that technologies which support gaze training should be expert-driven and intraoperative to efficiently modify novices’ gaze behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3533-3539
Number of pages7
JournalSurgical endoscopy
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Eye tracking
  • Fixation concentration
  • Gaze guidance
  • Intraoperative video annotation
  • Laparoscopic training

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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