Scientists from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston published a study, according to which the use of VR headsets by patients allows the use of less anesthetic during surgery, reports Engadget.
The research team divided 34 patients undergoing elective hand surgery into two groups based on group size. One group was given a virtual reality headset and offered a series of immersive programs to watch during surgery, while the other group was left without the headset. VR programs included 360-degree views of a peaceful meadow, mountain peak, or forest; guided meditation; or videos played against the background of the starry sky.
While the average patient needed 750.6 milligrams per hour of the sedative propofol, people who watched VR content needed only 125.3 milligrams. This approach also allows for faster recovery: on average, regular patients took 12 minutes longer to leave the post-anesthesia care unit than those wearing the VR headset.
According to scientists, virtual reality distracted patients from pain. However, it could also work that people went into operating rooms thinking that virtual reality would help them. Actually, the researchers admit, it could distort the results in a certain way. That is why the team of scientists plans to conduct a test that would exclude this placebo effect.
The next trials will also involve virtual reality: scientists will check how it affects patients undergoing hip and knee surgery. Past studies, conducted in particular at France’s Saint Joseph Hospital, have shown that such technology can calm patients.
Obviously, this phenomenon is attractive to medical workers, because in this way their patients will suffer less and return home faster. Therefore, doctors would be able to use anesthesia, free beds, and their time more efficiently.