VR helps young people relax for medical procedures

It can be used to help patients relax and alleviate anxiety for invasive medical procedures.

Virtual reality (VR) is being used by Birmingham Children’s Hospital to help young people relax and alleviate anxiety for invasive medical procedures.

VR is being used by the trust, with the consent of parents, for minor painful procedures and anesthetic inductions.

A report from the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) suggests that virtual reality has the potential to distract children, from self-reported pain and anxiety during medical procedures.

Although the technique is in its infancy, experiences reveal that children aged eight-years-old and above have been the most receptive to the use of virtual reality.

A really fun distraction.

Fifteen-year-old, Jack, recently visited hospital for a minor procedure and was offered the use of the new technology. He said: “I really enjoyed using the VR headset, we had a bet on how many balloons I could shoot on the VR headset before the end of the injection.”

Jack’s dad, Steve, added: “It was really reassuring to see Jack relaxed and enjoying the virtual reality, I think it should be used more often because it was a great way to make the procedure less daunting, I can see why it’s becoming more popular. It was a really fun distraction compared to the usual hospital visit.”

The technology is becoming increasingly more affordable, with wireless headsets available for as little as £300.

Using virtual reality to reduce the amount of general anesthesia that is administered could minimize the risk of side effects of the medication and even provide relief to leukemia patients who undergo lumbar punctures which require greater distraction to reduce movement.

An immersive distraction.

Consultant Anesthetist Dr Ben O’Sullivan, said: “Being a gamer myself, I understand that virtual reality allows you to be cognitively wired into something else that creates an immersive distraction.

“We’ve found that the roller coaster games have been the most popular for our kids and the relaxing hypnotic backgrounds have worked really well for those with learning disabilities, to provide a sense of comfort in an unfamiliar environment.

“Being at hospital is already quite a scary time for children – so it’s really important for us to ensure that young people and children are respected, and a level of comfort is maintained throughout their time at our Children’s Hospital.”

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