French Team Tests Virtual Reality Path to Pain Relief

The very thought of visiting a hospital emergency department is stressful enough for many people, even without the discomfort or pain of an examination or treatment. Enter an immersive virtual-reality programme created by three graduates being used in France to relax patients and even increase their tolerance of pain — without resorting to drugs. “What we offer is a contemplative world where the patient goes on a guided tour, in interactive mode, to play music, do a bit of painting or work out a riddle,” said Reda Khouadra, one of the 24-year-olds behind the project. As patients are transported by chunky VR goggles into a three-dimensional world of Japanese zen gardens or snowy hillsides, they become more tolerant of minor but painful procedures such as having a cut stitched, a burn treated, a urinary catheter inserted or a dislocated shoulder pushed back into place.

Curbing anxiety
“The virtual reality project enables us to offer patients a technique to distract their attention and curb their pain and anxiety when being treated in the emergency room,” said Olivier Ganansia, head of the emergency department at the Saint-Joseph Hospital in Paris. “I think in 10 years, virtual reality won’t even be a question any more, and will be used in hospitals routinely.” The Healthy Mind start-up is not a world first but has landed a USD 20,000 prize from a university in Adelaide, Australia, which will now pay for the three founders to present their project at Microsoft’s headquarters in the US city of Seattle. – The Hindu

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