Using Vr To Manage Patient Pain: How Some Canadian Surgeons Are Using It

Using Vr To Manage Patient Pain: How Some Canadian Surgeons Are Using It

In order for plastic surgeon Dr. Ryan Austin to prepare his patients for a procedure, he first makes them feel comfortable. As an alternative to using drugs, he is offering a narcotic-free alternative in the form of virtual reality (VR).

Using this technology, they will be able to have the procedure done … safely without going to sleep,” Austin, who runs a clinic in Mississauga, Ont., told Global News.

I think there is a risk associated with a general anesthetic, and then it allows them to quell that anxiety that they have.”

It has been shown that wearing a virtual reality headset during more minor procedures such as mass removal or hand surgery has resulted in a real improvement in patient pain as well, Austin says.

In fact, Austin explained that some of these procedures can take as little as 10 minutes, while others can take as long as two hours.

When they have something to distract them while the procedure is being performed, they feel less soreness as a result.

Using Vr To Manage Patient Pain: How Some Canadian Surgeons Are Using It

The headset has only been used by Austin at his clinic for a couple of months now. Despite the fact that there are still many things to be improved, he wants to see VR become a standard procedure during surgery in the future.

During the summer of last year, Health Canada approved SieVRt, an all-in-one virtual reality software that can be used in diagnostic radiology for a variety of purposes. However, the technology has not been approved for the treatment of acute or chronic pain as yet.

Asked if the department was looking at the possibility of approving VR devices for the treatment of acute or chronic pain, Health Canada said in a statement that it had not yet received any submissions related to the specific use of VR devices for chronic pain.

However, it did point out that to date, it has authorized three clinical trials that are currently looking into the use of VR devices as pain management therapies, such as rehabilitation or pain management during chronic illness.

In the past, the agency has told Global News that VR use by physicians is considered part of the “practice of medicine,” which differs by province and territory.

What is virtual reality?

The concept of virtual reality, or similar technology, as we know it today, was developed in the 1950s and 1960s, but it wasn’t until 1987 that the term “virtual reality” was coined.

The concept of virtual reality refers to computer-generated imagery and hardware that are specifically designed to help us feel as if we are immersed in the scene we select.

In spite of the fact that Austin is not the only city using the technology for medical purposes, it is still not a widespread practice.

In terms of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) in health care, North America dominates, with the EU not far behind.

As of November 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first VR device for chronic lower back pain.

Today, a headset and a tablet are the most common types of technology that are used. As far as breathing is concerned, there is even sound and a system that monitors it.

The headsets are given to patients and then they are transported into 3D worlds such as a soothing nature walk, ocean exploration, or a Cirque du Soleil performance using the headsets.

Dr. James Clarkson, an assistant professor of surgery at Michigan State University, has been performing “awake” surgical hand procedures assisted by virtual reality since 2006.

In our studies, we discovered that it’s those patients, about 30 percent of them, who suffer from anxiety disorders who achieve the greatest reduction in anxiety scores and the greatest joy scores. In addition, they report less pain as well,” he told Global News.

VR and pain management

Clarkson’s findings aren’t unique.

According to a large-scale data analysis conducted in 2019, the majority of studies showed that VR helped to decrease acute pain during and immediately after various medical procedures.

According to a review of 1,430 studies published in May, VR has applications not only in acute pain management but also in chronic pain settings where chronic pain is a problem.

Researchers from the University of British Columbia, however, discovered that the use of virtual reality technology reduced procedure times but not pain or anxiety of pediatric plastic surgery patients aged six to 16 who were awake during the procedure.

The “distraction” theory is the most popular explanation of why VR is effective as a pain management tool, but it is still not fully understood why VR has such a profound impact on pain.

As a result, a very important question remains unanswered: Could VR really replace opioids in some cases?

Experts say more research is needed.

“The technology is going to continue to improve, and I think we’re going to continue to see advances as the technology continues to develop,” Austin said.

In order to determine how VR stacks up against pharmaceuticals, Dr. Linda Carlson and her team are engaged in an initial phase of a study that is being conducted at the University of Calgary.

It is true that there is only a certain amount of mental capacity available for paying attention to incoming signals.

So that’s what happens, you’re engaged and it dampens or downplays the pain signals that you might have been getting in the past, said Dr. Carlson.

As part of the research, the researchers plan to follow 20 people who have tried different approaches to managing their chronic pain as a result of cancer treatments. In the course of six weeks, they will be offered VR-based mindfulness and relaxation sessions.

According to Carlson, he believes that if they can show a larger, well-designed clinical trial and perhaps even compare it to medications in order to evaluate the efficacy, then this treatment could be approved (by Health Canada).”

In light of the high risks associated with opioids and general anesthesia, especially in the elderly population, Clarkson is not in favor of the use of virtual reality in the medical field becoming more mainstream, since the risks are particularly high.

For over 100 years now, we have relied on Edwardian technology to give people surgery, which is why we are still using it today.

It is time for us to learn to change the way we approach things.”

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