Virtual Reality means less pain for children

This article states that : “AUSTRALIAN researchers have tested a virtual reality game as a form of pain management for children.”

Pain-killer game a hit with kids Jennifer Foreshew JANUARY 18, 2005 AUSTRALIAN researchers have tested a virtual reality game as a form of pain management for children.

The University of South Australia (UniSA) adapted the virtual reality technology to children after promising research in the US with adult burns victims.

UniSA research project leader Karen Grimmer said a trial involving children with cerebral palsy, who had undergone surgery to ligaments in their legs and faced post-operative physiotherapy, had resulted in a reduction in pain of about 40 per cent.

The treatment involves a child wearing head-mounted goggles, with a computer projecting images on to the lenses, or mini monitors.

Players rely on a sensor pack in the headwear and a handheld control to play the game.

“They have surround-sound headgear on and they drive the game by moving their head,” Associate Professor Grimmer said.

“We believe that because it is a virtual world the children are sucked into the game and it is more involving than just watching television or a video because they are actually part of the game.”

The virtual reality technology was superior to regular computer games and resulted in a reduction in pain and anxiety, she said.

The project is run by UniSA’s Centre for Allied Health Evidence and Schools of Computer and Information Science and Health Sciences (Physiotherapy) in conjunction with the University of Washington’s Human Interface Technology Laboratory.

The researchers also conducted a recent trial on children with burns at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide.

The virtual reality game, based on an existing video game and modified by UniSA’s Wearable Computer Laboratory, was used in addition to traditional pain relief.

“We got astounding findings,” Professor Grimmer said.

“Children who rated their pain on a visual analogue scale as seven or eight out of 10 during the non-virtual-reality part of the burns dressing were rating it as one or two when they had the virtual reality unit on.”

Professor Grimmer said additional funding of about $50,000 was needed to boost the variety of games offered and the range of potential users.

The technology was not suitable for children aged younger than five because of their motor control, she said.

“The logic is that it could be applicable for children after surgery, or those having any sort of dressing changes, lumbar punctures, or giving blood, because it is so immediately effective. You could put it on and play the game for five minutes.”

UniSA Wearable Computer Laboratory director Bruce Thomas said the researchers would like to work with a games company to develop material.

Additional units could be built for less than $10,000. “We’re interested in commercialising it,” Professor Thomas said. “Our ultimate goal is for this to be used in all hospitals every day.”

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