The Effect of Caffeine on Laparoscopic Skills Performance in Simulated Settings

Vincent Quan, BSc, Badriya S Alaraimi, MD, Walid Elbakbak, MSc, Amina Bouhelal, MSc, Ana Gavrila, BSc, Bijendra Patel, FRCS. Barts Cancer Institute – Queen Mary University of London, Academic Department of Upper GI Surgery – Barts and The London NHS Trust.


Coffee is commonly consumed by many surgeons due to its suspected effect on both performance and mental alertness. Our objectives in this study were to evaluate the effect of different doses of caffeine on performance of laparoscopic skills in a virtual setting.


We recruited 28 medical students who fulfilled the inclusion criteria (no prior laparoscopic experience, virtual or otherwise). They performed laparoscopic tasks under three conditions: decaffeinated, 100mg caffeine and 200mg caffeine taken as coffee one hour before the task. Candidates were crossed over to the other caffeine doses on different days.

The tasks performed were: Hand-eye Coordination (task 3), Two-handed Manoeuvres (task 6), Cutting task (Task 7) and Electrocautery task (Task 8) using the Lap Mentor™ (Simbionix®). All the candidates performed 3 repetitions of each task. Performance was compared by measuring completion time, accuracy, number of movements and total path length. All data was collected in Excel and analysed using SPSS version 21. We used a tailed T-test and p-values <0.05 were considered statistically significant at 5% level.


Seventeen out of twenty eight candidates completed the study. There were 8 males and 9 females with a mean age of 22.4 years. Table 1 shows the difference by the candidates under the 3 different doses.

Table 1
TaskTotal Completion Time/s  Accuracy/%  Total Number of Hand Movements  Total Path Length/cm  
Task 368775571392.5995.1994.28779845842381940004121
Task 618771922180192.5994.1294.34267127222652923787438772
Task 715762024181099.4999.0799.28261433353026569370186349
Task 831553428333796.4597.0197.10251328242776655668417025

The decaffeinated group had a faster completion time than 100mg in task 3(p=0.193), 6(p=0.371), 7(p=0.004) and 8(p=0.049) and a faster completion time than 200mg in task 3(p=0.527), 7(p=0.071) and 8(p=0.188) but not task 6(p=0.525).
The decaffeinated group only showed a higher accuracy score compared to 100mg and 200mg of caffeine in task 7 (p=0.24 and 0.604 respectively) but showed a lower accuracy score compared to 100mg and 200mg caffeine in task 3(p=0.062 and 0.290 respectively), 6(p=0.469 and 0.466) and 8(p=0.477 and 0.932 respectively).
The decaffeinated group had fewer hand movements than 100mg and 200mg caffeine in task 3(p=0.218 and 0.230 respectively), 7(p=0.007 and 0.122 respectively) and 8(p=0.154 and 0.055 respectively) and 100mg in task 6(p=0.840).
The decaffeinated group had a shorter path length than 100mg and 200mg caffeine in task 3(p=0.035 and 0.210 respectively), 7(p=0.039 and 0.154 respectively) and 8(p=0.526 and 0.138 respectively) but not in task 6(p=0.393 and 0.344 respectively).


Caffeine had little effect on laparoscopic performance of basic tasks (task 3, 6), but had more negative effects on advanced tasks (task 7, 8) in a simulated setting though the difference was not dose dependent. Further studies may aim to evaluate whether this has any significance on clinical practice.



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