Background Virtual Reality (VR) is a computer generated environment with scenes and objects that make you feel that you are immersed in the surroundings. Studies into VR to aid symptom control have been widespread in recent years, with over 8,000 studies published to date.
Aims To trial VR alongside traditional medicines and therapies in a day patient setting to help with pain and/or anxiety, prior to roll-out to the wider hospice community and inpatient setting.
Methods All patients are routinely screened using the Integrated Palliative Care Outcome Scale (IPOS). Those scoring highly in either pain or anxiety are offered VR, given an information leaflet, and asked to sign a consent form. They have the option to stop the experience at any time. In each session, patients can choose from a menu of experiences ranging from a trip to space, to underwater or a relaxation session. Pain and anxiety are assessed pre- and post- each session using a visual analogue 0–10 scale. Comments are also captured.
Results Eight patients have used VR to date. Preliminary data show reductions in pain and anxiety scores after use of the VR system (median pain score pre-session = 5, median pain score post-session = 3.5; median anxiety score pre-session = 5, median anxiety score post-session = 2). Only one incidence of an increased score (pain by +1) has been reported. Comments include: “This is the most relaxed I have felt in weeks”; “If I could buy one right now I would”; “These are the things I’m missing out on in my life”.
Conclusions We recognise this trial is in its early stages, however, early signs suggest its use is associated with a reduction in pain and/or anxiety levels in our patients. Data from a larger number of patients will be available for presentation at the Hospice UK Conference.
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