Gaming tech could ease pain during surgery - here's how

Gaming tech could ease pain during surgery – here’s how

It proves that VR headsets can enhance gaming experiences, immerse people in museums and art galleries, and enliven the classroom, among other creative uses. Now they might make the surgery a little less painful.

A VR headset worn during hand surgery helps distract and relax patients – and can even manage pain at lower drug doses, according to a new paper in the journal PLOS A.

If the idea comes to fruition, virtual reality could help doctors rely less on anti-anxiety and pain-relieving drugs that can lead to major side effects.

Here’s the background — Hand and wrist surgery is very common in the US and UK and it is about to become even more widespread.

“There is an expected increase of up to 75% for common manual elective procedures [by 2030]says Adeel Faruki, lead study author and assistant professor of anesthesiology at the University of Colorado, citing a 2014 study. Trigger finger release, cyst removal, and carpal tunnel surgeries are among the most common surgeries.

You might associate the Oculus VR headset with battling zombies or exploring Mars, but it could soon reduce drug doses during surgery and lessen side effects.Anadolu Agency/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Doctors usually give the patient regional anesthesia before entering the operating room, which blocks pain in a specific area. In this study, they provided a “brachial plexus nerve block”.

This is done by injecting a nerve in the neck which is responsible for arm and hand sensitivity. Then they administer a sedative or anxiolytic to relax the patient during surgery, such as a mixture of fentanyl and propofol.

But these pharmacological sedatives can cause postoperative hypotension, apnea or even cognitive impairment at too high a dose, which is why scientists are studying alternatives, says Faruki. These drugs can also be highly addictive, as is the case with fentanyl.

What’s new – Previous research has shown that futuristic gaming technology can help patients relax in certain situations, such as during an endoscopy or when changing a burn dressing. With their new study, Faruki’s team showed that it could also work for hand surgery.

People don’t necessarily need to be sedated to feel comfortable, says Faruk. When offered both regional anesthesia and a distraction like virtual reality, subjects said they felt their pain was under control even though they were fully conscious and awake. “They were relaxed,” he says. “They didn’t feel anxious and didn’t need more sedation.”

What did they do – The team observed how 30 patients survived hand surgery – while all received local anesthesia before the operation, only half of them were sedated during it.

Instead, the non-sedating group immersed themselves in a relaxing environment on the Oculus Go VR headset. Imagine a 360 degree view of a peaceful meadow, an enchanting forest or a majestic mountain peak. To reinforce the feeling of Zen, they could also choose a guided meditation.

All subjects could request more local anesthesia and sedatives if necessary. Then they completed a survey describing any pain and anxiety. The researchers also compared how long patients stayed in hospital after their surgery.

The drug fentanyl, which is given to patients during surgery, can be highly addictive. VR headsets could help reduce fentanyl use.Shutterstock

As a result, only four out of 17 patients with the VR headset received the sedative propofol. And even when headset users had the anxiolytic, they needed significantly lower amounts than people who weren’t vibrating in VR – 260mg less, to be exact.

Still, it’s important to note that this group received additional local numbing in seven out of 17 cases. the surgeon was quicker to give an additional local anesthetic,” says Faruki.

Why is it important – Eventually, virtual reality could be widely deployed in hospitals as a drug-free add-on, Faruki says.

Additionally, VR headsets could help streamline procedures and reduce clutter in surgery units. In this experiment, people in the VR headset group exited the PACU 22 minutes earlier on average than the other subjects.

In fact, helmet wearers said they didn’t feel like they had a worse operating experience, but they said they remembered being very aware of what they felt in the operating room.

Of course, there are some caveats. For example, patients using the VR headset knew they could potentially receive a lower amount of sedation than usual, so they may have been biased and less likely to request sedation in the first place.

Virtual reality could also make MRI scans a more comfortable experience for patients.RAJAAISYA/SCIENTIFIC PHOTO LIBRARY/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

And anesthesiologists knew which patients were using VR and which weren’t, which could add further bias.

To solve this problem, the researchers could have asked some patients to wear headphones and earphones without any input, says Tomoki Arichi, a clinical lecturer at King’s College London who was not involved in the study. Arichi recently investigated how virtual reality can make MRI scans more enjoyable for children and people with claustrophobia or anxiety.

“So [these findings don’t] really give a definitive understanding of [whether] it was precisely virtual reality that made the difference,” he says.

Scientists should try to determine which specific type of virtual stimulus is best for each context, Arichi adds. A tailored VR experience that encourages the participant to remain still could be even more effective.

And after – Future research should determine if this concept can work with other types of surgery, according to Arichi. And this technique could theoretically be deployed immediately – the researchers used commercially available virtual reality and headset systems.

Although this is only a pilot study, Faruki’s team is already working on larger clinical trials to see if virtual reality can reduce the dose of sedatives needed for patients undergoing major operations, such as hip and joint arthroplasty.

“There is a growing body of evidence supporting virtual reality as a distraction method for patients who are in the intensive care unit or pediatric patients undergoing intravenous placements or lumbar punctures, and that will continue to be studied,” Faruki said.

#Gaming #tech #ease #pain #surgery #heres

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.