Study: VR goggles reduce needle-related pediatric procedural pain

Children wearing virtual reality headsets reported less pain while undergoing intravenous needle procedures, according to a new study published in The Journal of Pediatrics

In two clinical trials, researchers at Monash Medical Centre in Victoria, Australia, assigned children aged 4-11 undergoing intravenous cannulation or venipuncture in either the emergency department or outpatient pathology to view an interactive underwater adventure on VR headsets, then rate their pain level during the procedure on the Faces Pain Scale — Revised.

On average, compared to children who did not wear the headsets during their intravenous procedures, those assigned to the VR group reported significantly lower levels of pain. According to the study, the technology was especially effective in distracting younger patients.

"Systematic reviews of distraction-based therapies confirm efficacy for pain and distress, with low-technology options (e.g., blowing bubbles, books), less effective than high-technology ones (e.g., television, virtual reality)," the study's authors wrote. "By occupying a proportion of an individual's finite and limited attentional capacity, virtual reality is hypothesized to decrease the cognitive resources available to focus on pain and anxiety."

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