Neuroenhancement in surgeons: benefits, risks and ethical dilemmas.
BACKGROUND: Surgeons traditionally aim to reduce mistakes in healthcare through repeated training and advancement of surgical technology. Recently, performance-enhancing interventions such as neurostimulation are emerging which may offset errors in surgical practice.
METHODS: Use of transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS), a novel neuroenhancement technique that has been applied to surgeons to improve surgical technical performance, was reviewed. Evidence supporting tDCS improvements in motor and cognitive performance outside of the field of surgery was assessed and correlated with emerging research investigating tDCS in the surgical setting and potential applications to wider aspects of healthcare. Ethical considerations and future implications of using tDCS in surgical training and perioperatively are also discussed.
RESULTS: Outside of surgery, tDCS studies demonstrate improved motor performance with regards to reaction time, task completion, strength and fatigue, while also suggesting enhanced cognitive function through multitasking, vigilance and attention assessments. In surgery, current research has demonstrated improved performance in open knot-tying, laparoscopic and robotic skills while also offsetting subjective temporal demands. However, a number of ethical issues arise from the potential application of tDCS in surgery in the form of safety, coercion, distributive justice and fairness, all of which must be considered prior to implementation.
CONCLUSION: Neuroenhancement may improve motor and cognitive skills in healthcare professions with impact on patient safety. Implementation will require accurate protocols and regulations to balance benefits with the associated ethical dilemmas, and to direct safe use for clinicians and patients.
PMID: 32335917 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]
Br J Surg. 2020 Apr 26;:
Authors: Patel R, Ashcroft J, Darzi A, Singh H, Leff DR