VR Helps Burn Victims With Pain

VR distraction therapy to help burn victims with pain is being trialed at Northern General Hospital in Sheffield, UK.

Virtual reality (VR) and its related immersive technologies has seen a variety of uses in healthcare, from assisting in surgical procedures to helping overcome addiction, but some researchers believe one of the most promising is in pain relief.

Burns are some of the most agonising and traumatic things a person can suffer, and for many the necessary medical treatment can prove an ordeal as there put through horrendous pain when having dressings changed. VR distraction therapy may help in this area.

As reported by the BBC, Patients at Northern General Hospital in Sheffield have been given VR headsets to allow them to immerse themselves in a scenario far from the clinical environment, with many saying that the Vr distraction meant they felt less pain when having bandages changed.

The technology is being trialled at the burns unit at Northern General Hospital, led by Sheffield Hallam University. The principle behind the system is that humans only have so much ‘bandwidth’ available when trying to pay attention for things, so the VR grabs the attention of the patient and diverts it away from the pain they are feeling.

Nurses at the hospital explained that for some patients the pain of cleaning and dressing wounds was so intense that they couldn’t tolerate it for long, and that the thought of undergoing that pain again could even trigger stress and anxiety.

Senior sister Michelle Morris said: “One particular patient did have a lot of anxiety and didn’t want us to clean or touch the wound at all. With the VR he almost forgot the wound was there and he let us do pretty much what we wanted.”

Researchers have developed a custom videogame that involves patients moving their heads when wearing a headset to trigger specific actions and movements within the VR world. The immersive nature of VR allows it to help patients stop focussing on the pain, as they are effectively ‘elsewhere’.

As patient Megan Moxon commented: “There’s a specific part of my leg that’s been really tender and sore but with the VR the nurse would be able to prod it, poke it, put a bit of pressure on and I wouldn’t feel a thing.”

For further news on medical applications for VR technology, keep checking back with VRFocus.

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