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Virtual reality better than standard of care at reducing pain, anxiety in children

12 Nov 2017
At Children’s National, Dr Julia Finkel is studying whether VR reduces pain for paediatric patients. Photo credit: Children’s National Health System

Virtual reality (VR) seems to be more effective than standard of care (SOC) in reducing pain and anxiety in children undergoing a routine blood draw, a recent randomized controlled trial (RCT) has shown.

In the trial, 143 patient triads (paediatric patient, caregiver and phlebotomist) were randomized to receive either VR (n=70; mean age 15.79±3.0 years; 47.14 percent female) or SOC (n=73; mean age 15.06±3.23 years; 52.05 percent female) for pain intervention during blood draw. Study outcomes included pre- and postprocedural measures of anxiety, pain and patient satisfaction.

Patients reported high levels of immersion in the VR game (mean score 22.75±6.32) with 92 percent of the children reporting no simulator sickness, whereas mild to moderate nausea was reported in 5.2 percent (n=4) of the participants. No other adverse events were recorded.

Phlebotomist satisfaction was also high, with 98 percent responding that they wanted to use VR in other patients as well.

According to patient reports, VR significantly reduced pain (β, -0.16; p=0.53) and anxiety (β, -0.10; p<0.01) visual analogue scale scores relative to SOC procedures. Affect, measured by the facial affective scale, was also significantly improved in the VR than in the SOC cohort (β, -0.27; p<0.001).

The same results obtained when caregiver reports were considered, with pain colour analogue scale scores being additionally significantly reduced in the VR relative to the SOC group (β, -0.26; p<0.01).

“Given the public’s excitement and enthusiasm for VR and its applications, specifically in healthcare, this article marks a critical first step in the examination of the new generation of VR technology for acute procedural pain management,” researchers said.

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Most Read Articles
Stephen Padilla, 21 hours ago
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