As patients are transported by chunky VR goggles into a three-dimensional world of Japanese Zen gardens or snowy hillsides, they become more tolerant of minor but painful procedures. PARIS – The very thought of visiting a hospital emergency department is stressful enough for many people, even without the discomfort or pain of an examination or treatment.

Enter an immersive virtual-reality programme created by three graduates being used in France to relax patients and even increase their tolerance of pain – without resorting to drugs. “What we offer is a contemplative world where the patient goes on a guided tour, in interactive mode, to play music, do a bit of painting or work out a riddle,” said Reda Khouadra, one of the 24-year-olds behind the project. As patients are transported by chunky VR goggles into a three-dimensional world of Japanese Zen gardens or snowy hillsides, they become more tolerant of minor but painful procedures such as having a cut stitched, a burn treated, a urinary catheter inserted or a dislocated shoulder pushed back into place.

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