Virtual reality glasses are being used to replace general anesthesia in some operations in a US hospital.
A year ago, Colorado Children's Hospital in the United States began testing the use of virtual reality glasses to help patients in their recovery process, something that both served to entertain and educate. After the good results in this program, the hospital will now take the next step, which will be to use these virtual reality glasses to distract patients during operations, thus avoiding the use of general anesthesia.
The program is called 'Starlight Xperience' and is an alliance between Lenovo, the application management company SOTI and the Starlight Children's Foundation. The objective is to create a distraction system where patients can focus on play and experiences, in order to avoid the pain of a surgical intervention.
"If they don't pay attention to the pain signals, it's as if they don't exist"
According to Lenovo, during this program, the use of virtual reality as a reassuring distraction has served to subject various young patients to mild to moderately painful interventions, all while they were awake.They claim that this has served to reduce recovery time and medication use.
Joe Albietz, medical director of Colorado Children's Hospital, mentioned:
"The human brain has limited bandwidth for what it can pay attention to at the same time. The more it engages in a virtual reality experience, the less it can perceive pain signals. If you are not paying attention to those pain signals, It is as if they did not exist."
For these experiences, the Mirage Solo glasses from Lenovo are used, which are compatible with Google's Daydream platform, where Starlight Xperience runs.
In the first tests, they have used the glasses in procedures such as endoscopy or a lumbar puncture, where they only needed local anesthesia, and, according to hospital officials, it has been very well received by patients.
"Virtual Reality can be used in place of general anesthesia to help tolerate pain and is, in fact, having a profound impact on the quality of life of our hospitalized children. We are seeing children who used to require general anesthesia and who are now they can be wide awake with a minimum of medications. "
What was done by the Children's Hospital of Colorado is not new, in fact Imperial College London published a report a few months ago precisely pointing to the use of virtual reality glasses to immerse patients in settings with icebergs, oceans and frozen landscapes Could relieve burning pain.
And it is that according to this report, virtual reality not only distracts the brain, but can also trigger the body's own defense systems to combat pain. This was explained by Sam Hugues, author of the report:
"Virtual reality can interfere with processes in the brain, brain stem, and spinal cord, which are key parts of our pain-fighting systems and are instrumental in regulating the spread of increased pain sensitivity."
Another example is VRHealth, located in Boston, where Oculus virtual reality is being used to help laboring mothers as well as cancer patients during their chemotherapy sessions.