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The Promising Effects of Virtual Reality for Managing Pain and Anxiety in Pediatric Oncology Patients

Authors of the research paper:- Carlotta Nerini, Sharon Burk, Emanuela Andretta, Andrea Chirico, Antonio Giordano

The Promising Effects of Virtual Reality for Managing Pain and Anxiety in Pediatric Oncology Patients

Cancer treatment is an extremely difficult experience for pediatric patients, often involving substantial pain and anxiety from procedures like chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and needles. Effectively managing this distress is crucial for ensuring proper care and avoiding dangerous reactions like attempts to avoid treatment.


While opioid medications are commonly used, they have significant potential side effects like nausea, constipation, and hallucinations. As a result, there is great interest in non-pharmacological approaches like virtual reality (VR) that can act as a distraction during painful procedures.


Recent studies have shown very promising results for using VR with pediatric oncology patients. Multiple randomized controlled trials found that VR significantly reduced self-reported pain levels compared to control groups during procedures like port access, IV insertion, and blood draws. VR also decreased anxiety and fear levels in these patients.


The immersive, engaging virtual environments provided through VR headsets seem to effectively distract patients and reduce activation in the brain regions associated with pain perception. Different VR scenarios have been tested, like swimming with marine animals, exploring forests, playing games, and riding rollercoasters.


While more research is still needed, VR appears to be an effective complementary technique to standard analgesics for managing procedural pain and distress in pediatric oncology patients. It represents a novel, drug-free intervention that can improve patient experience and cooperation with difficult cancer treatments.


However, VR does have some potential limitations like motion sickness, eye strain, and accessibility challenges that need to be addressed. But overall, this innovative technology holds great promise as a form of palliative care to reduce suffering for pediatric cancer patients undergoing treatment.

Professor Antonio Giordano, M.D., Ph.D., is the creator and head of the Sbarro Health Research Organization, located at Temple University's College of Science and Technology in Philadelphia. Stay connected with him through his various social media platforms, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram, to receive the latest updates.


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