Research into VR in the Medical Setting

The applications of SyncVR Medical are based not only on insights from patients and healthcare professionals, but also on scientific research: both international studies and research initiated by SyncVR Reality Medical and our partners.

Virtual Reality and Pain

There is already a lot of evidence that suggests that Virtual Reality has a positive effect on pain (1, 2). Virtual Reality is a very powerful way of distracting. The patient’s attention is completely focused on the virtual environment, leaving little attention for other things, such as pain and the medical treatment (3). International research among patients has already shown that Virtual Reality can reduce acute pain during medical interventions, for example during Qutenza treatments, injections, epidurals or burn treatment (4-9). Researchers also found that using Virtual Reality can lead to a lower need for pain medication (10). Furthermore, many studies have confirmed that Virtual Reality is also very effective in treating chronic pain (11-15).
  1. Virtual Reality interventions for acute and chronic pain management –  Ahmadpour et al. (2019) 
  2. Virtual reality as an analgesic for acute and chronic pain in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis – Mallari et al. (2019)
  3. Virtual Reality and Interactive Simulation for Pain Distraction – Wiederhold et al. (2007) 
  4. Virtual Reality as a Distraction Intervention to Relieve Pain and Distress During Medical Procedures – Indovina et al. (2018)
  5. Virtual reality and pain management: current trends and future directions – Li et al. (2011)
  6. Clinical efficacy of virtual reality for acute procedural pain management – Chan et al. (2018) 
  7. The effectiveness of virtual reality distraction for pain reduction: A systematic review – Malloy & Milling (2010)
  8. Virtual Reality as an Adjunctive Non-pharmacologic Analgesic for Acute Burn Pain During Medical Procedures – Hoffman et al. (2011) 
  9. Virtual reality for management of pain in hospitalized patients: results of a controlled trial – Tashjian et al. (2017)
  10. Randomized, crossover study of immersive virtual reality to decrease opioid use during painful wound care procedures in adults – McSherry et al. (2018) 
  11. Targeting pain catastrophization in patients with fibromyalgia using virtual reality exposure therapy: a proof-of-concept study – Morris et al. (2015) 
  12. Nonimmersive virtual reality mirror visual feedback therapy and its application for the treatment of complex regional pain syndrome: an open-label pilot study – Sato et al. (2010)
  13. Virtual Reality as a Distraction Technique in Chronic Pain Patients – Wiederhold et al. (2014)
  14. Virtual reality in the treatment of fibromyalgia – Botella et al. (2013) 
  15. The Impact of Virtual Reality on Chronic Pain – Jones et al. (2016)  

Virtual Reality and Anxiety

Virtual Reality is not only an incredibly effective method of pain reduction, but also reduces stress and anxiety (16, 17). For many patients, the thought of medical treatment is enough to cause stress and anxiety. The loss of control causes patients to focus on the environment and react with heightened sensitivity to certain stimuli, such as the beeping of machines. Anxiety is a risk factor for complications and can lead to a more painful recovery process and a longer stay (18-20). In addition, it increases pain perception and the need for sedatives (21).
  1. Feasibility of an Immersive Virtual Reality Intervention for Hospitalized Patients: An Observational Cohort Study – Mosadeghi et al. (2016)
  2. Clinical Use of Virtual Reality Distraction System to Reduce Anxiety and Pain in Dental Procedures – Wiederhold et al. (2014)
  3. Preoperative anxiety and postoperative pain in women undergoing hysterectomy – Kain et al. (2000)
  4. Effects of β-Blockers and Anxiety on Complication Rates After Acute Myocardial Infarction – Ruz et al. (2011) 
  5. Effect of preoperative nursing visit on preoperative anxiety and postoperative complications in candidates for laparoscopic cholecystectomy – Sadati et al. (2013)
  6. Evidence That Music Listening Reduces Preoperative Patients’ Anxiety – Lee et al. (2012)

Virtual Reality and Children

Many children experience a lot of stress/anxiety when they have to go to the hospital. To avoid pain and anxiety in children, distraction techniques and medical hypnosis are widely used (22). Virtual Reality is a very powerful way of distracting, which leads to a slower response to incoming pain signals (23). Several studies have also shown that Virtual Reality can relieve a lot of pain and anxiety in children who have to undergo medical procedures such as different injection procedures or burn treatments (23-25). It can also reduce preoperative anxiety in children (26), which reduces the chance of a more painful recovery procedure and sleeping problems (27).
  1. The efficacy of non-pharmacological methods of pain management in school age children receiving venepuncture in a paediatric department – Wang et al. (2012)
  2. Virtual reality for pain and anxiety management in children – Arane et al. (2017)
  3. Virtual Reality for Pediatric Needle Procedural Pain: Two Randomized Clinical Trials – Chan et al. (2019)
  4. Hypnotherapy for children with functional abdominal pain or irritable bowel syndrome: a randomized controlled trial – Vlieger et al. (2007) 
  5. The effect of gamification through a virtual reality on preoperative anxiety in pediatric patients undergoing general anesthesia – Ryu et al. (2018)
  6. Preoperative anxiety, postoperative pain, and behavioral recovery in young children undergoing surgery – Kain et al. (2006)

Virtual Reality and Elderly

Virtual Reality can be of added value to the elderly in many ways (28, 29). Firstly, it can offer relaxation and distraction, for example before, during or after medical procedures or during a long hospital stay. In addition, Virtual Reality can stimulate physical reactivation (in the form of movement exercises or bicycle tours) and contribute to cognitive stimulation and rehabilitation.
  1. The virtual reality leisure activities experience on elderly people – Jeng et al. (2017)
  2. Using Virtual Reality for Cognitive Training of the Elderly – García-Betances et al. (2014)

Virtual Reality and Movement

Virtual Reality encourages physical activity and decreases fear of movement (30-33). Interactive training in a virtual world in which movement is stimulated in a playful way makes movement more fun and challenging. This can lead to more dedication and a better recovery. As stated before, Virtual Reality is also very effective in the treatment of chronic pain, for example for patients with non-specific low back pain (11-15).
  1. Virtual Reality as a Therapy Adjunct for Fear of Movement in Veterans With Chronic Pain: Single-Arm Feasibility Study – Fowler et al. (2019)
  2. Comparative effects of clinic-and virtual reality-based McKenzie extension therapy in chronic non-specific low-back pain – Mbada et al. (2019)
  3. Is physiotherapy integrated virtual walking effective on pain, function, and kinesiophobia in patients with non-specific low-back pain? – Yilmaz Yelvar et al. (2017)
  4. Cervical Motion Assessment Using Virtual Reality – Sarig-Bahat et al. (2009) 

Virtual Reality during Medical Procedures

Research has shown that Virtual Reality can not only reduce pain, but also medication before, during and after surgery (34-39). In addition, it may result in a shorter postoperative stay (40). Recently, results have shown that patients receiving a VR intervention have significantly lower postoperative pain scores than those receiving the usual care (41). “VR therapy considerably reduces the need for medication, effectively lowering costs for public health institutions and decreasing patient complications and recovery time.” (47)
  1. Virtual reality improves the patient experience during wide-awake local anesthesia no tourniquet hand surgery – Hoxhallari et al. (2019)
  2. Pain distraction during ambulatory surgery: virtual reality and mobile devices – Mosso Vázquez et al. (2019)
  3. Virtual reality as an adjunct to anesthesia in the operating room – Faruki et al. (2019)
  4. Feasibility of implementing a virtual reality program as an adjuvant tool for peri-operative pain control – Haisley et al. (2020)
  5. Virtual reality hypnosis for pain associated with recovery from physical trauma – Patterson et al. (2010)
  6. Innovative technology using virtual reality in the treatment of pain: Does it reduce pain via distraction, or is there more to it? – Gupta et al. (2018)
  7. Economic analysis of implementing virtual reality therapy for pain among hospitalized patients – Delshad (2018)
  8. Effects of virtual reality on relieving postoperative pain in surgical patients – Ding et al. (2020)

Virtual Reality in the Hospital

Virtual Reality can transport patients to another world (3) and thus provide relaxation, distraction and less social isolation. In the studies below you can read more about the added value of Virtual Reality for your department.

Virtual Reality for Oncology

  1. Virtual Reality in Health System: Beyond Entertainment. A Mini-Review on the Efficacy of VR During Cancer Treatment – Chirico et al. (2016)
  2. Patient education using virtual reality increases knowledge and positive experience for breast cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy – Jimenez et al. (2018)
  3. A positive psychological intervention using virtual reality for patients with advanced cancer in a hospital setting – Baños et al. (2013)

Virtual Reality for Gynaecology

  1. The use of pre-operative virtual reality to reduce anxiety in women undergoing gynaecological surgeries – Chan et al. (2020)
  2. Virtual reality as a distraction therapy in obstetrics and gynaecology – Harper et al. (2019)

Virtual Reality for Dialysis

  1. Virtual Reality Simulation in Peritoneal Dialysis Training: The Beginning of a New Era – Zgoura et al. (2019)

Virtual Reality for Endoscopy

  1. Virtual reality assisted anaesthesia during upper gastrointestinal endoscopy: report of 115 cases – Mosso Vázquez et al. (2017)

Virtual Reality in home setting

Virtual Reality can be used remotely. That is, the patient used VR as a digital therapy to undergo at home instead of at the healthcare institution. A number of studies have shown effectiveness, mainly in the field of rehabilitation (49, 50, 51) as well as dialysis training in nephrology (45) and lifestyle enhancement for elderly (52).

(49) A low cost virtual reality system for home based rehabilitation of the arm following stroke: a randomised controlled feasibility trial
(50) Home-based virtual reality training after discharge from hospital-based stroke rehabilitation: a parallel randomized feasibility trial
(51) Virtual reality exercise on a home-based phase III cardiac rehabilitation program, effect on executive function, quality of life and depression, anxiety and stress: a randomized controlled trial
(52) A Social Virtual Reality-Based Application for the Physical and Cognitive Training of the Elderly at Home

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