VR tech can help ease anxiety in pediatric cancer treatments

VR Tech - Child with cancer

Lawson Health Research Institute and Children’s Hospital at London Health Sciences Centre is testing it.

Researchers at Lawson Health Research Institute and Children’s Hospital at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) have started using virtual reality (VR tech) to reduce fear and stress levels in kids undergoing painful medical procedures such as those used for treating cancer.

The virtual reality technology will be used for kids that need port access for their treatments.

The research will look at treating patients between the ages of 5- and 17-years requiring port access. This is a type of reservoir installed under the skin that allows a needle to be inserted into it for administering bloodwork or providing regular medication. The procedure of installing and using the port can be painful for patients.

“I see a lot of kids undergoing painful procedures and even though we provide them with anesthetic in some capacity, they still experience a significant amount of discomfort and it’s probably related to anticipatory anxiety and stress,” explained Dr. Naveen Poonai, emergency pediatric physician at LHSC.

Ninety patients are participating in this study. They will be divided into three different groups. One will have access to the virtual reality technology throughout the procedure. The second group will be able to watch programs or play games on tablets and iPads. The third group will not have access to technology during their procedures.

VR Tech - Kid using VR

Researchers will then record the responses about the use of VR tech during their procedure.

The children will all receive a questionnaire that will allow the researchers to assess which group had the most favorable experience throughout their procedure.

According to Poonai, they hope to “nip the anxiety in the bud” and not only provide the pediatric patients with a better experience during their treatments, but also make it easier as they get older for them to cope with procedures that are painful.

Poonai pointed out that VR tech is “cool”. He added that “In the 60s we can distract them with a game of snakes and ladders, but now, we’re in the 21st century and virtual reality is what a lot of kids are doing right now.”

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