Know-how: Canadian hospital first to сure patients with virtual reality
Graydon Cuthbertson, a patient at Rockyview General Hospital, nearly lost his legs from compartment syndrome. Following multiple surgeries on his calf muscle, the 47-year old experienced pain ranging from discomfort to excruciating during wound-dressing changes.
Cuthbertson found that utilizing the VR technology helped him to escape his grim hospital surroundings and take in a calming virtual lakeside campground, a prehistoric landscape with dinosaurs, or a tranquil ocean to swim with dolphins.
“It’s a godsend,” he said. “Even with painkillers, the first time I had wound care after my surgery, the pain was excruciating. But with virtual reality, I got through the next treatment with flying colors. I was focused on what I was seeing and hearing, and not thinking at all about how painful it might be. All of the sudden, one-and-a-half hours go by and it’s all over. It was awesome.”
Rockyview is the first hospital in Canada to use VR technology to allow patients to alleviate their pain, nausea and anxiety by escaping to one of 12 VR experiences. The hospital said patients reported a 75-percent reduction in discomfort and a 31-percent improvement in overall experience.
An anonymous donor funded the purchase of two Samsung Gear headsets, which hospital staff say could transform patient care that heavily relies on painkillers and sedatives. Patients reported no side effects from using VR and the method could be used as a complementary therapy to reduce dependency on drugs.
“You can see an immediate effect in their body language, in their breathing. Their whole body relaxes,” said wound-care physiotherapist Jaclyn Frank to CBC.
“Their breathing slows down and you can tell that they've been transported somewhere else and they're not in the wounds room receiving what can potentially be a painful treatment with us,” she added.
The technology is now being tested in the hospital’s intensive and cardiac care units, while results from the study are being shared with hospitals across the country.
“We're kind of looking to expand anywhere it would be helpful,” said Scout Windsor, a video conference tele-health technician at the hospital.
New and more affordable VR technology has made it easier for patients to benefit from the calming technique. A recent study by the Los Angeles hospital Cedars-Sinai involving 100 patients found those who watched calming videos on a VR headset reported a 24-percent drop in pain.