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Automation of surgical skill assessment using a three-stage machine learning algorithm

Joël L. Lavanchy, Joel Zindel, Kadir Kirtac, Isabell Twick, Enes Hosgor, Daniel Candinas, Guido Beldi

Surgical skills are associated with clinical outcomes. To improve surgical skills and thereby reduce adverse outcomes, continuous surgical training and feedback is required. Currently, assessment of surgical skills is a manual and time-consuming process which is prone to subjective interpretation. This study aims to automate surgical skill assessment in laparoscopic cholecystectomy videos using machine learning algorithms. To address this, a three-stage machine learning method is proposed: first, a Convolutional Neural Network was trained to identify and localize surgical instruments. Second, motion features were extracted from the detected instrument localizations throughout time. Third, a linear regression model was trained based on the extracted motion features to predict surgical skills. This three-stage modeling approach achieved an accuracy of 87 ± 0.2% in distinguishing good versus poor surgical skill. While the technique cannot reliably quantify the degree of surgical skill yet it represents an important advance towards automation of surgical skill assessment.

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