One of the most common misconceptions is that Virtual Reality is just for entertainment.
However, researchers, doctors and scientists from across the world have been exploring the use of VR in military and healthcare for decades. This accumulation of data has since exploded with the universal funding and adoption Virtual Reality is receiving from giants in the industry.
In turn this makes VR more affordable and accessible to the mass market, once a very big factor holding the technology back holding it back. We’re going to explore Virtual Reality in the healthcare industry and how it’s shaping the future for people across the world.
By VR BOUND
Illustration Credit: VR BOUND
Ana Maria has never been to Machu Picchu. The 61-year-old always wanted to visit the mountain ruins but she suffers from hypertension, and doctors warned that the extreme altitude could cause her blood pressure to rise dangerously high. Today, dressed in a white gown and hairnet, she will explore its ancient walls and pyramids for the first time.
She’s in a private medical clinic in Mexico City, and laughs nervously as she’s wheeled into a windowless operating room. The surgeon takes a Sharpie and draws a large circle on her left thigh, paints on several layers of iodine, then injects a local anesthetic into the skin. Inside the circle is a fatty lump, a lipoma around six centimeters across, which he is about to remove.
Image Credit: Chester Holme / Mosaic
As legislation at the state and federal level seeks to curb opioid prescriptions, providers are keen to find alternatives to such medication that alleviates patient anxiety and chronic pain symptoms but can be addictive.
Virtual reality could very well be that alternative.
Los Angeles-based startup AppliedVR has developed a platform with a library of interactive games and relaxing landscapes to draw users attention away from their pain, reducing dependence on pain medications with Samsung’s virtual reality hardware Gear VR.
Together, Samsung and AppliedVR are working with a group of hospitals to validate the technology for children and adults. In one randomized controlled trial, the two have collaborated with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center to evaluate the clinical utility of VR for inpatient pain management and its effect on narcotic use, length of stay, and patient satisfaction. The study is currently recruiting up to 120 hospitalized adults, according to the description on ClinicalTrials.gov’s website.
Image Credit: AppliedVR
Phantom limb pain is a mysterious ailment: people with amputations experience aches and acute pains in an arm or leg that isn’t there — making the problem notoriously difficult to treat. But a new type of therapy using augmented reality is surprisingly effective at reducing even the most intractable phantom pain.
The AR therapy method, first proposed in 2014 by Max Ortiz Catalan of the Chalmers University of Technology, just completed its first, highly promising clinical trial. The team selected 14 amputees whose phantom limb pain was chronic and unresponsive to other therapy methods.
Virtual reality has the ability to take sick children from their hospital beds to far-away worlds, under the sea or on a rollercoaster, so where do they want to go?
“The young kids at The Alfred’s oncology ward told us they just wanted to be ‘anywhere but here’,” virtual reality maker Trent Clews-De Castella told The Huffington Post Australia.
He is co-creator of virtual reality company Phoria, that is creating experiences specifically for sick children in hospitals, thanks to a new grant from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.
“We’re realising we don’t need to reinvent the wheel in terms of experiences so we’re looking at what’s proven in the medical space to have therapeutic benefits,” Clews De-Castella said.
The next time you have a headache, a Swedish pharmacy wants you to strap on a virtual reality headset and pretend you’re sitting next to a campfire by a lake in Sweden, watching the Northern Lights as night falls.
The pharmacy, Apotek Hjärtat, designed a free VR app for pain relief called Happy Place.
“Pain prevention is not just pharmaceuticals,” says Annika Svedberg, head pharmacist at Apotek Hjärtat. “There are alternative ways to treat pain, for example with exercise or massage. With Happy Place, we wanted to offer people the opportunity to try a completely new way to manage their pain.”
Several independent studies show that virtual reality can help the brain stop focusing on physical pain. One early VR game called SnowWorld helped burn victims reduce the amount of time they spent thinking about pain from 76% to 22%—even when the pain was severe. The VR equipment used in SnowWorldstudies costs tens of thousands of dollars. Now, mass-market headsets are making VR pain relief more accessible.
Swiss surgeons successfully used an experimental technique, which includes harvesting cells from the nasal septum, to repair damaged knee joints in patients. Two years later, these patients report improvements in pain and knee function, according to a study published Thursday in the journal The Lancet.
“The treatment is safe and feasible,” said study co-author, Dr. Ivan Martin.
Between 2004 and 2011, nearly two million Americans underwent a knee surgery due to cartilage problems. As the population ages, these surgeries will become increasingly common, experts say, however the existing techniques aren’t optimal. This study indicates a promising new option could be within sight.
By Susan Scutti | CNN