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Published on November 14th, 2019 | by Emergent Enterprise

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Doctors are Testing the Use of VR Headsets Instead of General Anaesthetics for Young Patients

Emergent Insight:
The brain is a mysterious part of the human body and we are still learning how virtual reality experiences affect it. Daphne Leprince-Ringuet posts at ZDNet that VR is being used in children’s hospitals to distract the brains of patients to keep their minds off of the pain during treatments. Reducing the need for medication is a big win for patient care and this use of VR could lead to other solutions that involve “tricking the brain.”

Original Article:
Photo: New Realities

A year ago, the hospital started using VR headsets to entertain and educate its young patients; now, it has found it could also distract them away from painful operations.

At the Children’s Hospital in Colorado, doctors are using virtual reality, rather than general anaesthetics, to help young patients to get through painful procedures. 

Lenovo said by using VR as a calming distraction, several patients have been able to undergo mild to moderately painful treatments whilst awake, cutting down lengthy recovery times, and reducing the need for medication.

“The human brain has limited bandwidth for what it can pay attention to,” said Joe Albietz, medical director at Children’s Hospital Colorado. “The more it is engaged in a VR experience, the less it can perceive the pain signals coming through.”

“If it’s not paying attention to those pain signals, they might as well not exist.”

Launched last year, the VR program is dubbed “Starlight Xperience” and is the result of a three-way partnership between Lenovo, app management company SOTI, and the Starlight Children’s Foundation. 

The Mirage Solo is the only standalone headset that supports Google’s Daydream platform, which Starlight Xperience runs on. 

The technology is being used so that when children face an invasive procedures like endoscopy, only a local anaesthetic is required. The headset is also worn during lumbar puncture, during which a thin needle is inserted between the bones in the lower spine, or while dressing damaged limbs, sometimes with no additional anaesthetic needed at all. 

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