City surgeon: Virtual Reality can be a painkiller

City surgeon: Virtual Reality can be a painkiller

It can distract patients from pain, thereby reducing its impact

Like any other child of his age, four-year-old Awaiz was scared to get an injection. He made a scene every time the doctors were to give him a jab.

But after a session of ‘Virtual Reality’ (VR) video, played to him as he was given an injection, Awaiz surprised everyone by asking for more jabs. Having an injection now means the boy gets to watch Jurassic Park for free. His mother Riza said Awaiz likes the idea of wearing the headset and gets absorbed in the colourful movies, seemingly impervious to the slight discomforts caused by the injections.

A few months ago, city-based cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon Dr Rajesh Deshmukh held the Virtual Reality experiments with child and adult patients at the Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research.

“We tried this on 15 patients and the results were amazing,” Dr Deshmukh said. “The basic idea is to distract the patients while administering an injection or performing minor procedures without anaesthesia that might cause slight discomfort or pain.” 

Doctors make patients watch videos on the Virtual Reality headset that keeps their mind away from the procedure, allowing the medical staff to get on with their duties without disruption. Dr Deshmukh said Virtual Reality therapy can effectively distract patients from chronic and acute pain. Patient immersion in interactive Virtual Reality distracts them from painful stimuli and can lower the perception of pain and the time spent thinking about the pain, post-surgery.

VR therapy is more relevant today as a “painkiller”, with the ongoing opioid crises that can have life-threatening consequences such as respiratory depression.

Dr Deshmukh explained VR therapy showed the potential to redefine pain in the clinical setting. Besides being a relief from post-surgical pain, it is effective during simple vaccination or injection pain, separation anxiety in children, labour pain and dressing patients with extensive burns.