Can VR be used to reduce children's anxiety, pain?

Innovative virtual reality technologies hold promise in reducing children's anxiety and pain before and after medical procedures and surgery, according to two studies submitted with the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

One study found virtual reality that brings a hypnotic state aided in coping with postoperative anxiety and pain in children. A second study proposes that a new virtual reality program that has the ability to adjust cognitive load and reorient the program's display when a child changes position during medical procedures may lessen their anxiety and perception of pain.

The first study found virtual reality hypnosis (VRH) reduced anxiety, total postoperative opioid consumption and vomiting in children after scoliosis surgery.

Twenty-one children were included in the study. Ten children received VRH support after surgery along with usual postoperative pain management, which comprised patient-controlled analgesia with opioids, while 11 children did not receive VRH.

The second study examined over 600 patients, ages 6 to 18 years old, who were given a new virtual reality (VR) game, which allows the user or clinician to reorient the game play in real time, and regulate cognitive load, to increase its capacity to divert patients, so their perception of pain is decreased.

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