Virtual reality to distract children during medical procedures

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Clinicians at Monash Children’s Hospital and Monash University are conducting a research study using virtual reality to help distract patients from procedures in Pathology and Emergency Departments.

Current pain management techniques such as local anaesthetic cream or distraction is inadequate for some children, and may result in the need for restraints and/or sedation.

Young patients can now explore the ocean and interact with friendly sea life, all while a doctor is performing medical procedures including venepuncture or the inserting an intravenous cannula. These procedures can often be upsetting for children, and for those who are accompanying them.

The researchers are investigating new and effective drug-free ways to reduce the fear and pain associated with needle-based procedures.

Virtual Reality (VR) is an interactive computer system that can be ‘seen’ when wearing a headset and smartphone.

Dr Erin Mills from Monash Children’s Hospital said VR allows users to be transported into an engaging and interactive 3D ‘virtual world’ which provides an escape from the real world where the procedure is being performed.

“The virtual reality experience has been designed to be immersive, enjoyable and help relax and reassure the child while medical procedures are taking place,” she said.

“VR has been shown to improve pain scores in patients undergoing painful procedures including burns dressing changes, blood tests and intravenous cannulation.”

This study is currently running at Monash Children’s Hospital, with 240 patients taking part overall and will roll out to the Royal Children’s Hospital in the coming weeks.

Over 30,000 patients have presented to the Monash Children’s Hospital Emergency Department in the last 12 months, with 4,500 requiring blood tests.

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