Gershon J, Zimand E, Pickering M, Rothbaum BO, Hodges L. A pilot and feasibility study of virtual reality as a distraction for children with cancer. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2004 Oct;43(10):1243-9. doi: 10.1097/01.chi.0000135621.23145.05. PMID: 15381891.
To pilot and test the feasibility of a novel technology to reduce anxiety and pain associated with an invasive medical procedure in children with cancer.
Children with cancer (ages 7-19) whose treatment protocols required access of their subcutaneous venous port device (port access) were randomly assigned to a virtual reality distraction intervention, a non-virtual reality distraction, or treatment as usual without a distraction. The researchers obtained assessments of the child’s pain and anxiety from the parent, child, and unblinded nurses. Pulse rate was monitored throughout the procedure, and behavioral indices of distress were recorded, as observed by the researchers.
Reductions in pain and anxiety were found for children who used the virtual reality distraction in comparison with the no distraction condition as evidenced by lower pulse rate and reports of pain by nurses. No significant differences were found for the non-virtual reality condition versus the no distraction condition on pulse rate.
These findings suggest that virtual reality may be a useful tool for distraction during painful medical procedures, but further studies are needed to test potential efficacy and feasibility during other, more distressing medical procedures with larger sample sizes.
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