Doctors Use VR To Ease Needle Phobias

An American paediatrician has been using VR to help children who are getting their injections.

Not many people enjoy getting injections, and for children it can be especially traumatic, with the fear making what would probably be only a brief scratch into something much worse. Luckily, there is a potential solution, as doctors are using virtual reality (VR) as a means to ease fears and make trips to get those injections less likely to end in trauma.

It has been noted before that VR can be used to combat bot anxiety and pain, with medical personnel at the Northern General Hospital burns unit in the UK using the tech to help patients be distracted from the pain, and a paediatrician in the USA has taken this idea as something that might potentially help children.

VR needles phobia study 1

Chad Rudnick is an MD and affiliate professor at Florida Atlantic University’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine and founder of Boca VIPediatrics. He was inspired to use VR for ‘distraction therapy’ when an 8-year-old patient entered his office with a VR headset. When wearing the VR headset, the child didn’t even flinch when the injection was applied.

“That’s when the lightbulb went off in my head. It got me thinking whether this outcome was just a one-time incident or whether it would work again,” said Rudnick.

While VR has been used in a variety of ways in healthcare, there have been no specific studies looking at VR use for paediatric immunisations, so Rudnick has been testing his theories with the aid of two medical students, who are also co-authors of the study, Emaan Sulaiman and Jillian Orden, who are part of FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science.

The study involved participants between the ages of 6 to 17, who completed a pre and post questionnaire that evaluated their pain, fear and anxiety. Rudnick used a 3D VR headset with a smartphone app that let the children choose a rollercoaster ride, helicopter ride or hot air balloon ride. The children could then enjoy the short VR experience as the injection was administered.

VR needles phobia study 2

The results showed that the pain and fear were reduced in 94.1% of study subjects.

For future coverage on VR use in healthcare, keep checking back with VRFocus.

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