Pilot Study Finds VR Reduces Stress in Children Having Vaccine Injections

Virtual reality (VR) use in medicine is becoming commonplace as researchers look to use the technology in a range of applications. Recently the Sansum Clinic in Santa Barbara and Lompoc, California ran a pilot scheme to see if the use of VR head-mounted displays (HMDs) could aid in helping children reduce their fear of injections, especially when getting vaccinations.   

Conducted between September and November of 2016, the study compared children who used a VR headset during vaccination to those who received their vaccine without. When receiving the injection patients viewed an ocean scene to calm and relax them. Out of 244 children in the study 112 used a HMD when getting their seasonal flu shot. The study found that 48 percent of the kids reported less pain than those without the headset, while surveyed parents noted their sons or daughters experienced 48 percent less pain and 52 percent less fear in VR.

Sansum Clinic - VR HMD Trial

While Sansum Clinic staff reported that children using VR had 75 percent less pain, and exhibited 71 percent less fear. “We were fairly impressed with the numbers.  They definitely show that the VR goggles facilitated the vaccination process for kids, parents and staff,” said Dr. Mark Silverberg, Sansum Clinic pediatric ophthalmologist.

While only a small pilot study, the results do show promise in using immersive technology to help aid patients by distracting them. The study came about when Dr. Silverberg noticed frequent apprehension in young patients who connected visiting any medical office with painful shots. It was his 15 year-old daughter, Zoe who suggested the use of VR, so they took the idea to Dr. John LaPuma, a board certified internist and proponent of exercising in nature for stress reduction to create the project.

“It’s a shame to think of kids going un-vaccinated simply because of the stress,” adds Dr. Silverberg. “We were looking for a simple, inexpensive remedy.”

VRFocus will continue its coverage of VR in medicine, reporting back with further updates.