Virtual reality, often pictured on the heads of avid gamers in the U.S., is finding a new purpose in an unexpected place: pediatric pain management. Clinical psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Gold, director of the Pediatric Pain Management Clinic in the Department of Anesthesiology Critical Care Medicine at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, is the lead of a new study examining the effectiveness of virtual reality for kids undergoing painful procedures.

He spoke with “Take Care” about the ways VR can be used to help children through typically painful, high-stress procedures. VR was first introduced in a pediatric setting for the purposes of attenuating pain during procedures that require a calm demeanor by providing a distraction for the children’s eyes and minds.

Gold said that more than 300 children have gone through treatment with the help of VR at the hospital, and so far, he has seen a lot of success. “It’s a very engaging process for the kids to play and to want to get to that next level,” Gold said.

“What we know is through attention and concentration and focusthat you can engage more attention and concentration into the game and away from the procedure that’s happening.” The key is to create stimulating games that are appropriate for every age group, Gold said. Fortunately, none of the children who have experienced the VR treatment so far have reported discomfort, such as the simulator sickness that has sometimes been reported with adult usage.

Mostly, the reactions are overwhelmingly positive. “When we first approach a potential participant, and we introduce the study, they’re often very excitedand they’re interested and they want to play,” Gold said. Read more from…

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