Our clinical study at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada was recently published in the Journal of Pediatric Oncology Nursing. This study assessed the usability (ease of use and understanding, acceptability) of a custom VR intervention for children with cancer undergoing implantable venous access device (IVAD) needle insertion.
Virtual reality goggles help ease the pain of cancer treatment for kids
For children facing serious illnesses like cancer, the treatment process can be scary because of the physical pain. But now thanks to a new grant, one local treatment center has a high-tech way to help ease their pain.
Cure 4 The Kids is a nonprofit clinic that treats children with serious medical conditions including cancer. Thanks to a grant written in part by neuropsychologist Dr. Danielle Bello, the clinic has just received 3 sets of virtual reality goggles. The VR goggles are made by KindVR and the experiences are designed to help distract children and ease their pain while undergoing treatment.
Virtual Reality: A Distraction from Sickle Cell Pain
St. Jude explores virtual reality as a distraction technique for children and teens undergoing the pain crises of sickle cell disease.
By Mike O’Kelly; Photo by Peter Barta
Patients in a new St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital study will soon dive deep into the ocean for a marine experience alongside tropical fish, friendly seals and curious dolphins. While launching multi-colored bubbles at a variety of aquatic life, they’ll navigate an underwater terrain of sunken ruins and stone columns.
Swimsuits, scuba gear and beach towels won’t be necessary—the underwater journey is part of a new virtual reality experience designed to distract children with sickle cell disease who have acute pain crises.
People with sickle cell disease have red blood cells that are sickle-shaped and hard, making it difficult for their cells to move through blood vessels and deliver oxygen to body tissues. Pain crises are the recurring episodes that occur when normal blood flow is disrupted.
The pain is different for each individual. Some children get complete relief from routine pain medicines while others need more time or increased dosage before the pain subsides.
Three years ago, Doralina Anghelescu, MD, director of the hospital’s Pain Management Service, began a clinical trial to see if adding the drug gabapentin to the standard regimen would lessen acute pain from sickle cell crises more quickly or completely. The study is ongoing, but when presented with the opportunity of including virtual reality technology as a distraction tool, the researchers decided to try it.
The virtual reality project will include 76 patients—half will receive virtual reality sessions and the other half will receive standard treatment. St. Jude is partnering with the Memphis-based Methodist Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center on the clinical trial. This is the first study at St. Jude to use virtual reality, helping further position the institution as a leader in pain management for pediatric patients. (Read the Full Story on St. Jude Children's Research Hospital's website)
Outfitted with a headset and controller, 12-year-old Tommy Peachock sat cross-legged on his hospital bed and floated through a bright, blue sea. His head swiveled side to side, up and down, as he watched whales and dolphins swim up to him.
It was Tommy’s first experience with virtual reality (VR), a technology that’s finding new and varied uses in medical settings.
Akron Children’s Hospital landed 6 units in August from KindVR, a California company. KindVR works with a number of hospitals researching various medical uses of VR. The goal is to help distract and calm young patients who are in pain or facing medical procedures.
Research has shown that VR distraction is effective at reducing pain. More studies are underway to see if VR is valuable in different hospital settings like emergency rooms and before surgery.
Tommy is a leukemia patient of the Showers Family Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders. He was hospitalized recently after spiking a fever. His family is from Hubbard in Trumbull County.
Tommy was dressed and ready to go home on this morning.
With his mother Sharon watching, hospital volunteer Jessica Benson slipped an Android phone into the headset, showed Tommy the controller and started the KindVR Aqua program.
With his controller, Tommy blew virtual bubbles at sea creatures and objects, which turned them into rainbow colors. Tommy was absorbed in the 15-minute underwater journey.
About halfway through, he broke silence. “There’s a seal in front of me,” he called out.
Acquiring VR units was Jessica’s idea. A former substitute schoolteacher, she is enthusiastic about VR, pointing out that it helps reduce pain and thus reliance painkillers. She spreads the virtues of VR every chance she gets. (Read the full story on the Akron Children's Hospital website)
All around Emanuel Monge was bright blue water and rainbow-colored fish. Smiling sea lions passed by, as gray whales soared overhead. Dancing dolphins bobbed above an array of artifacts from a shipwreck long ago.
The 13-year-old glided through the ocean, taking in the sights and sounds surrounding him. He flung balls at fish, discovering that the contact zapped them into neon colors. He learned if he launched enough balls, he’d get an ancient column to topple over to the ocean floor.
After a few more minutes of looking around and playing, his boat suddenly came into view. The next thing he knew he was back to where he had been: the MACC Fund Center at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.
Emanuel’s underwater adventure had been a virtual reality experience offered to him as a way to ease his anxiety during a transfusion. (Read the Full Article on the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin Blog)
Mark Zuckerberg showed a photo of a patient using KindVR software on stage during his keynote speech at Facebook's annual Oculus Connect 4 Conference in San Jose, CA. We're proud to be publicly recognized for our work in the areas of pediatric pain and stress mitigation.
Jenny Hoag, a pediatric psychologist at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, tells the story of one patient, Jamie*, whose experience demonstrates just how distressing regular procedures can be for kids with cancer and other chronic diseases:
"I had worked with him since the beginning of his treatment, and he really, really struggled," she says. "He would get here and immediately feel nauseous and anxious and would almost always vomit, sometimes more than once, before we even did anything."
Hoag's job is to come up with ways to help kids conquer that discomfort and anxiety. But in Jamie's case, he wasn't interested.
Jamie rejected Hoag’s coping mechanisms, but once she suggested virtual reality, his curiosity won out.
Hoag brought in a virtual reality program that makes the wearer feel as though they're underwater, being pushed along calmly while viewing colorful fish, ships, and other distracting scenes. (Read the full story on Upworthy.com)
A pilot study in San Francisco has shown that virtual reality (VR) can help children and teens escape from the pain of sickle cell disease, and future studies are planned to ease discomfort for youths being treated for cancer.
The idea came from video game developer Simon Robertson, who also happened to be a volunteer at the University of California San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland.
UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland published a video highlighting their pioneering work researching the use of virtual reality to help sickle cell patients manage their pain. Briana Nathaniel, a participant in the research study shares how VR plays a role in her hospital experience. Primary Investigator of the study Dr. Anne Marsh and Simon Robertson of KindVR discuss the potential of VR to help patients.
We're proud to be mentioned on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper today. The story details our research study at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland evaluating the use of virtual reality to help patients with sickle cell disease manage their pain crisis.
"Briana Nathaniel, 14, lies listless in her hospital bed, exhausted from days of nearly unbearable pain. Her voice is small, barely a whisper, and even lifting her hand seems to take enormous effort.
Half an hour later, she’s transformed. A virtual reality visor covers half her face, but it can’t hide her grin. She’s sitting up, her hands waving around as she calls out, “Hi, dolphin! Hi, whale!” " (Read more)