Study: Surgery Patients Wearing Virtual Reality Headsets Need Less Anesthesia

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Some experts had been skeptical about the arrival of virtual reality devices in medicine, but there are more and more studies that show with evidence that VR technology can relieve pain for patients during surgery.

The MIT Technology Review website has published research by a group of scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts, United States, indicating that patients using VR headsets require less anesthesia during hand surgery.

The proof, according to the study, is that while the average conventional patient required 750.6 milligrams per hour of the sedative propofol, people who watched relaxing virtual reality contentsuch as meditation, nature scenes and videos, they only needed 125.3 milligrams.

In addition, his recovery was faster, leaving the postanesthesia unit at an average of 63 minutes versus 75 minutes.

Distraction equals less pain

Scientists claim that virtual reality distracted patients from pain that would otherwise require their full attention. However, the researchers also admitted that users of the VR headsets might have gone into surgery expecting VR to help them, which could skew the results.

VR patient

The Beth Israel Deaconess team is planning trials that could rule out this placebo effect. A follow-up trial will also test the effect of virtual reality on patients undergoing hip and knee surgery.

Previous experiments, such as at St. Joseph’s Hospital in France, have indicated that the technology can help calm patients.

The medical appeal, as Engadget explains, is that patients can suffer less and go home sooner. Hospitals, for their part, could make the most of their anesthesia supplies, freeing up recovery beds and reducing wait times.

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