Recent evidence on visual-spatial ability in surgical education: A scoping review




Background: Understanding the relationships between structures is critical for surgical trainees. However, the heterogeneity of the literature on visual-spatial ability (VSA) in surgery makes it challenging for educators to make informed decisions on incorporating VSA into their programs. We conducted a scoping review of the literature on VSA in surgery to provide a map of the literature and identify where gaps still exist for future research.

Methods: We searched databases until December 2019 using keywords related to VSA and surgery. The resulting articles were independently screened by two researchers for inclusion in our review.

Results: We included 117 articles in the final review. Fifty-nine articles reported significant correlations between VSA tests and surgical performance, and this association is supported by neuroimaging studies. However, it remains unclear whether VSA should be incorporated into trainee selection and whether there is a benefit of three-dimensional (3D) over two-dimensional (2D) training.

Conclusions: It appears that VSA correlates with surgical performance in the simulated environment, particularly for novice learners. Based on our findings, we make suggestions for how surgical educators may use VSA to support novice learners. Further research should determine whether VSA remains correlated to surgical performance when trainees move into the operative environment.


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How to Cite

Kalun P, Dunn K, Wagner N, Pulakunta T, Sonnadara R. Recent evidence on visual-spatial ability in surgical education: A scoping review. Can. Med. Ed. J [Internet]. 2020 Oct. 20 [cited 2024 Jul. 18];11(6):e111-e127. Available from:



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