A boy is excited on a roller coaster on his way to a theme park. The retiree sees the rock band Queen playing a Bohemian rhapsody. But they are always on the surgeon’s desk.
They wear virtual reality headsets that effectively distract from surgery – using the technology, millions of Britons may soon be less addicted to severe anesthesia or potentially addictive drugs.
Virtual reality (or VR) has been introduced since the 1960s, primarily for military use to train pilots.
Glass-like devices create 3D, computer-generated environments where people can interact using screens and motion sensors. It was then adopted by the gaming world in the 1990s.
Doctors are now discovering the potential of VR as a non-drug treatment for patients – from alternatives to general anesthesia to treating phobias and potentially changing lives for people with chronic illnesses.
Patients began to appear in hospitals, hospices and nursing homes in the UK.
Doctors are now unleashing the potential of VR as a non-drug treatment for patients – from an alternative to general anesthesia to treating phobias and potentially changing lives for people with chronic illnesses (File Image)
Ian McDonough, 7 Northumber4 VR headset McDonough, North NHS Foundation 2020 while wearing knee health replacement clothing.
He chose to watch a VR “live” performance of the Bohemian Rhapsody song, which used nerve block rather than general anesthesia because it was so effective in removing the mind from surgery.
“It took everything out of my mind,” he said. “I knew some of the contractions, but I would recommend it as an alternative to general anesthesia.”
He underwent knee replacement surgery on another leg five years ago and said the virtual reality method was “much more enjoyable and faster to heal.”
General anesthesia can confuse patients with general physical side effects, including vomiting and chills.
General anesthesia can cause patients to lose orientation with general physical side effects such as vomiting and chills (File Image)
It can have long-term effects, including memory problems or cognitive impairment, confusion – postoperative cognitive dysfunction, presumed to be caused by anesthetic chemicals that damage nerve cells.
This seems to affect especially older people. According to a 2014 study in the journal Deutsches Arzteblatt International, 12 percent of patients over the age of 60 experience postoperative cognitive dysfunction three months after surgery.
The VR technology used in Northumbria offers many experiences, including sitting in a virtual forest or on the African plains and seeing wildlife – with an emphasis on breathing and reason. There are also movies and concerts.
“We started using VR headsets for elective orthopedic procedures like knee replacements, but we quickly expanded it because there were so many positive feedback,” said Dan Lawrence, an anesthesia partner at the Northumbria Health Trust, to Good Health.
“We have noticed that the headset not only reduces anxiety, but also has side effects that can occur under general anesthesia.
‘VR has reduced other hospital costs – such as the need to stay overnight after general anesthesia.’
The hospital has increased its VR headsets from two to eight: “We use them in conjunction with regional and local anesthetics – we help 2,000 patients a year,” Mr Lawrence said.
There are plans to expand this further: “For example, collecting packages that will convince patients what to expect before treatment,” he says.
At Birmingham Children’s Hospital, they use VR to reduce the anxiety of young patients about invasive treatment.
According to the hospital, VR simulation helps children stay still during complex procedures such as lumbar punctures, in which a needle is inserted between the bones in the lower spine to collect fluid for testing.
Dr. Ben O’Sullivan, a consultant pediatric anesthesiologist at the hospital, told Good Health: “Being in a hospital is a dangerous time for children, so it’s important to be comfortable. We’ve seen roller coasters play the most popular games for our children.”
A study by Evelina Children’s Hospital in London found that using a VR device reduced anxiety in two-thirds of children, for example, during blood transfusions.
Further support for VR was provided by Health Technology Wales in 2020, based on a review of available scientific clinical trials – concluded that VR procedures reduce pain more effectively during and after procedures than with standard care (such as painkillers). The only negative effect is “rare and mild” dizziness.
Why is VR so effective? Dr. Jordan Cigarides, a researcher in rheumatology at the University of East Anglia, who is testing VR for patients with chronic disease, explains: “VR is immersive. This can disrupt the mental cycle of people with chronic illness.
“By putting someone out of the ordinary, VR can relax. If you add an interesting task like a game, it’s not hard to get their attention.”
Dr. Jordan Cigarides, a researcher in rheumatology at the University of East Anglia, who is testing VR for patients with chronic disease, explains: “VR is immersive. It can disrupt the thinking cycle of people with chronic disease.”
Thanks to a clinical kit developed by Cardiff-based Rescape, this immersive power is now widely used in the UK healthcare industry.
The kit, called DR VR, is used in more than 40 hospitals, nursing homes and hospices, as well as in areas such as oncology and palliative care.
According to performer Matt Wardley, the kit is primarily a distraction and relaxation tool, but can have a deeper impact.
“Nurse Marie Curie told me how she gave a VR experience in fishing to a bedridden patient with motor neuron disease who worked as a sports diver.
“When he took off the headset, tears welled up in his eyes, and he waved the sailor’s hand, ‘I’m fine.’ VR allowed him to reconnect with the joys of life. ‘
Another pioneering British technology company, Oxford VR, is developing virtual reality to treat mental health problems.
He successfully tested a VR headset to treat phobias in 100 patients who were afraid of heights. A study published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry in 2018 showed that phobias were reduced by an average of 68 percent in those receiving therapy.
This week: The best time to have sex
According to Dr. Paul Kelly, an honorary professor of sleep, circadian and memory neurology at the Open University, it depends on your age.
According to him, 15:00 is best for those over 20. They feel the urge at any time, but first, they are weak. When Dr. Kelly turns 30, we wake up early – this allows us to increase our sex hormone testosterone and get the most out of our morning sun, which allows us to have a good 8.20 in the morning, Dr. Kelly says.
The quality of sleep deteriorates with age, and in middle age we seek sexual intercourse before bedtime, which activates the hormone oxytocin and allows us to relax. When we are 60 and older, we get up and go to bed a lot earlier, so having sex around 8pm will help provide you with oxytocin and help you swim.
Treatment was later extended to the NHS for dizziness in some areas, such as Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire.
The latest device from Oxford VR, gameChange, aims to reduce the anxiety of people with psychosis – affecting almost 1 percent of Britons and causing confusion (as a result of conditions such as bipolar disorder).
Often, these patients are afraid of leaving their homes and disrupt their relationships and lives.
During the GameChange experience, patients are accompanied by a virtual therapist who guides them in studying simulations of everyday situations, such as being in a cafe or on a bus.
The results of a trial involving nearly 340 patients at nine NHS Trusted therapies (given in 30-minute sessions every week for six weeks) reduced patients’ pain fourfold and increased their likelihood of leaving their homes, Lancet said in April.
Daniel Freeman, a professor of psychiatry who led the study and co-founder of Oxford VR, told Good Health: “We think this will change the digital provision of psychological care.”
Currently, VR is primarily used to distract people from short-term illness, but it is also promising for chronic illness.
Dr. Cigarides explains: “These patients, although not of physical origin, experience chronic pain after a previous injury. It is thought to be caused by adaptive pathways in the brain that control the disease.
“People with chronic illnesses often experience ‘pain,’ in which thoughts of disease-related interventions enter their lives, affect their functioning, and exacerbate the pain and cause anxiety.”
It can also affect sleep. Dr. Cigarides adds, “Because they are tired, they cause the disease to worsen.” “It’s a tough cycle.”
In an unpublished study of 27 patients, Dr. Cigarides reported a significant reduction in disease after using VR for up to five minutes.
“VR can be of great help to people with chronic illness because we doctors often know that there are few effective options, and this can lead to the risk of becoming addicted to powerful painkillers such as opioids,” says Dr. Cigarides.
And there’s another reason why VR deserves it: value.
Commercial estimates suggest that using VR equipment can cost the NHS up to £ 10 per day. So, if it is used for ten patients a day, it is only £ 1. In the real world, this is a virtual sniper.