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Virtual reality reduces anxiety and pain in acute hospital palliative care: service evaluation
  1. Nancy Burridge1,
  2. Alison Sillence2,
  3. Lynda Teape2,
  4. Ben Clark1,
  5. Emma Bruce1,
  6. Julie Armoogum3,
  7. Daniella Leloch3,
  8. Anna Spathis1,4 and
  9. Simon Etkind1,4
  1. 1Palliative Care, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Cambridge, UK
  2. 2Department of Psychological medicine, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, Fulbourn, UK
  3. 3University of the West of England, Bristol, UK
  4. 4Department of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
  1. Correspondence to Nancy Burridge, Palliative care, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Cambridge, CB2 0QQ, UK; nancy.burridge2{at}


Objectives Virtual reality (VR) might improve symptom management, but there is limited evidence regarding VR in palliative care. We evaluated the feasibility of VR and impact on anxiety and pain for patients in a hospital palliative care consultation service.

Methods Patients referred to a hospital specialist palliative care team, with anxiety or pain, were offered a VR intervention (a short audiovisual experience). Participants rated anxiety and pain on a 0–10 Likert severity scale pre intervention/post intervention and completed an evaluation form. Change in symptom scores was analysed by parametric statistics.

Results 28 participants used VR a total of 42 times with no adverse events. Mean pain score reduced by 29% from 4.10 (SD=2.71) pre intervention to 2.93 (SD=2.45) post intervention (t(27)=5.150, p<0.001). Mean anxiety scores reduced by 40% from 4.43 (SD=2.56) to 2.65 (SD=2.24) (t(27)=5.058, p<0.001). Patients rated the experience on average 4.75/5 and all would recommend use to a friend. VR was described as absorbing and relaxing.

Conclusion VR may improve anxiety and pain and was acceptable in this setting. Large-scale evaluation will generate important data on feasibility and implementation.

  • Complementary therapy
  • Pain
  • Psychological care
  • Service evaluation

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  • Contributors NB, ASi and LT were responsible for conceptual ideas and study design. NB, AS, LT, BC, EB, JA and DL were responsible for planning, organising and conduct. NB, AS, LT, BC and EB were responsible for data collection and reporting. ASi was responsible for statistical analysis of data. SE and ASp were responsible for critical review and editing of report. All authors read and approved the final version of this short report. NB is the guarantor.

  • Funding Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust funded loan of virtual reality equipment, project ref 900347.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.