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A virtual reality headset that truly impacts surgery

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Kids thrilling on a roller coaster ride at a theme park. A pensioner watches the rock band Queen perform Bohemian His Rhapsody right in front of his eyes. But they are always on the surgeon’s table.

They are wearing virtual reality headsets that can effectively distract them from the surgery. With technology, you don’t need to immediately go under heavy anesthesia or rely on addictive pain relievers.

Virtual reality (or VR) has been around since its introduction in the 1960s, primarily for training military pilots.

Devices like goggles use screens and motion sensors to create 3D computer-generated environments that people can interact with. It was then picked up by the gaming world in the 1990s.

Doctors are now discovering the potential of VR as a non-pharmacological therapy to treat patients. From alternatives to general anesthetics, to treatments for phobias, to potentially life-changing treatments for people with chronic pain.

In hospitals, hospices and nursing homes across the UK, patients are already beginning to benefit.

Northumberland native Ian McDonough, 74, wore a VR headset while undergoing knee replacement surgery in 2020 at the Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

He chose to watch a VR live performance of the song Bohemian Rhapsody. This was so effective in distracting me from the surgery that I had the surgery done using a nerve block instead of general anesthesia.

“It took my mind off of everything,” he said. “There was some pulling, but I would recommend it as an alternative to general anesthesia.”

He had knee replacement surgery on his other leg five years ago and says the virtual reality approach is “much more comfortable and a much faster recovery.”

General anesthesia can be confusing for patients with common physical side effects such as vomiting and chills.

There may also be long-term effects such as cognitive impairment such as memory loss and confusion. This is a condition called postoperative cognitive impairment and is thought to be caused by anesthetics that damage nerve cells.

This seems to especially affect older people. A 2014 study published in the journal Deutsches Arzteblatt International found that 12% of patients over the age of 60 suffered postoperative cognitive impairment three months after surgery.

The VR technology used in Northumbria offers a range of experiences, such as sitting in a virtual woodland or African plains and observing wildlife, focused on breathing and mindfulness. You can also enjoy movies and concerts.

Dan Lawrance, Associate Anesthesia at Northumbria Health Trust, said:

“We found that not only did the headset reduce anxiety, but it also reduced the side effects you may have suffered from general anesthesia.

“VR has reduced costs for other hospitals, for example reducing the need for overnight stays after general anesthesia.”

The hospital has increased the number of VR headsets from two to eight. “We use it with local anesthetics and help up to 2,000 patients a year,” he says.

We have plans to expand this further. “For example, putting together a package that reassures patients what to expect before treatment,” he says.

Birmingham Children’s Hospital uses VR to reduce anxiety in young patients about invasive treatments.

The hospital reports that VR simulations have also helped children stay still during difficult procedures such as a lumbar puncture, in which a needle is inserted between the bones of the lower spine to draw fluid for testing. It’s helpful.

Dr. Ben O’Sullivan, the hospital’s consultant pediatric anesthesiologist, said: Popular with children. ”

Separately, a study by London’s Evelina Children’s Hospital found that using a VR device significantly reduced anxiety in two-thirds of children undergoing procedures such as blood draws.

A 2020 Health Technology Wales review of the available scientific clinical trial evidence provided further support for VR. We concluded that VR reduces pain more effectively than standard care (such as analgesics) during and immediately after the procedure. The only side effect is “rare and mild” nausea.

Why is VR so effective? Dr. Jordan Tsigarides, East He is an Academic His Fellow in Rheumatology at the University of Anglia and has been trialling his VR for patients with chronic pain, explains: The brain’s attention by processing pain signals.It can break the thought cycle of people with chronic pain.

“By putting someone in a situation outside of their normal environment, VR can be relaxing, and if you add engaging tasks like games, it’s not hard to get their attention completely.”

This immersive power is now widely used across UK healthcare, thanks to a kit for clinics developed by Cardiff-based company Rescape.

Called DR VR, the kit is used in over 40 hospitals, nursing homes and hospices in settings such as oncology and palliative care.

CEO Matt Wordley says the kit is primarily a distraction and relaxation tool, but it can have a deeper effect.

“A nurse at Marie Curie told us how a patient with motor neuron disease who was a sports diver was given a VR experience of swimming with fish,” he said.

“When he took off his headset, he cried tears of joy and gave a diver hand signal, ‘I’m fine.’ VR allowed him to reconnect with the joys of life.”

Oxford VR, another pioneering technology company, is developing virtual reality as a treatment for mental health issues.

A VR headset has been successfully tested to treat phobias in 100 patients with fear of heights. A 2018 study published in The Lancet Psychiatry reported an average 68% reduction in phobias among those who received treatment.

This treatment was later rolled out in the Vertigo NHS in several areas such as Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire.

Oxford VR’s newest device, gameChange, aims to reduce anxiety in psychotic patients. It is estimated to affect nearly 1% of the population and causes confused thinking (as a result of conditions such as bipolar disorder).

Often these patients are so frightened that they cannot leave their homes, causing serious disruption to their relationships and lives.

During the gameChange experience, patients are accompanied by a virtual therapist and explore simulated everyday situations, such as being in a cafe or on a bus.

Results from a trial involving approximately 340 patients in nine NHS trusts show that the treatment (during 6 weeks of 30-minute weekly sessions) reduced patients’ distress by a quarter and allowed them to leave their homes. It was reported to The Lancet in April that the chances of getting out have increased. .

Daniel Freeman of Oxford VR, professor of psychiatry and co-founder of Science, who led the study, said:

Currently, VR is mainly used to relieve people’s temporary pain, but it has been proven effective for chronic pain as well.

Dr. Tsigarides explains:

“People with chronic pain often experience ‘pain interference’, where pain-related thoughts invade their lives, impact functioning, and cause anxiety that worsens their pain.

This can also affect sleep. “Fatigue is more likely to increase pain,” he adds Dr. Tsigarides. “It’s a vicious cycle.”

In a yet-to-be-published study of 27 patients, Dr. Tsigarides found that after using VR for just five minutes, patients reported significant pain relief.

“VR has the potential to be of great help to people with chronic pain, as physicians have few effective options and often lead to prescribing strong pain relievers such as opioids with the risk of addiction. Yes,” said Dr. Tsigarides.

And there’s another reason why VR is worth trying. it’s worth it.

Commercial estimates say using VR equipment will cost the NHS just £10 a day. So a day he is only 1 lb per use for 10 patients. Even in the real world, it’s a virtual clipping.

© Daily Mail