Burn Victims Keeping Pain Off You- The Virtual Reality Therapy

The Virtual Reality Therapy And keeping Pain Off Burn Vctims

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Most Burn patients who often experience excruciating sensations of heat and pain may find relief in virtual reality environments of snowmen and ices. Burn Patients are interacting with a virtual reality system called Snow World to distract themselves from excessive pain during wound care.

When found effective, Snow World or other virtual reality environments could help treat injuries caused by improvised explosive devices used in terrorist attacks. These are the cause of the majority of the burns currently suffered by servicemen and women, said research scientist Hunter Hoffman, who developed Snow World at the University of Washington in Seattle with Chicago-native David Patterson.

Brilliant Researchers at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research and Burn Center in Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and the University of Washington in Seattle are monitoring patients’ ratings of their time thinking about pain and the amount of pain they experienced with and without Snow World.

Yes, “We’re studying the effects on both soldiers and civilians, because it has far-reaching implications, since we all suffer pain,” said Dr. Christopher Maani, lead author of the first study results. Maani is the chief of anesthesia at the Army Institute.

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Maani and other researchers presented their findings, from the first three patients of the 13 they have treated so far with Snow World, at the recent annual meeting in Honolulu of the Glenview-based American Academy of Pain Medicine.

Effectiveness of the treatment on these patients was first published in the Journal of CyberTherapy & Rehabilitation. Researchers reported that Snow World was an effective way to reduce the patients’ experience and the level of pain.

Some of the patients suffered second and third degree burns when his Humvee was hit by a terrorist’s rocket propelled grenade in the Iraqi war fields. During his wound care, “time spent thinking about pain” was 100 percent with no virtual reality and zero percent during interaction with virtual reality. “Pain unpleasantness” ratings dropped from seven on a scale of one to 10 to none and his rating of worst pain dropped from eight out of 10 to three. The second patient also showed moderate pain reduction while using Snow World.

Some happy “Patients have said, ‘I felt like I needed something to keep warm’” while experiencing Snow World, said Dr. Peter DeSocio, the assistant chief of anesthesia at the institute, explaining that some patients feel the experience is very real.

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Dr. Hoffman said patients wounded in traumatic situations such as war often experience particularly intense pain, which requires more medication. “It’s intensified because of the fact that it was triggered by a traumatic event, there are psychological factors that affect how much pain they feel,” said Hoffman, a scientist at the Human Interface Technology Laboratory at the University of Washington.

The “Virtual reality world can be effective, although it won’t help everyone,” said Dr. E. Richard Blonsky, an associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “It puts the patient in control. They don’t have to lie there and be a pain victim.”

Nationwide, 55,000 patients were admitted to hospitals in 20012 with severe burns, according to the latest statistics available from the Web site of the American Burn Association. Using virtual reality as a treatment for patients such as these is important because it may lessen pharmacological drugs that are applied.

“The more the patients are sedated they are with pharmacological treatments, the less awake and interactive they are,” said Maani. “This translates into not being able to eat, not being able to maximize active rehabilitation and neither being able to leave the hospital sooner due to dependence on potent pain medications.”

Yes. “What we’re learning is that the brain has a lot of plasticity,” said Blonsky. “There are many things we can do to train our brain” and alter perception of a symptom such as pain.

The most Recent modifications to the Snow World system include the use of a robotic arm that holds the goggles weightlessly in front of the patient. The Army Institute and the Harborview Burn Center in Seattle are the only sites using the goggle holder but this optional upgrade is available to all sites using Snow World. Goggle holder are very important because of the sensitivity of the skin when patients have burns, said  Dr.Hoffman.

“When treating burn patients with combat-related burn injuries during wound care, it’s often very difficult to use a helmet,” said Hoffman. Older distraction techniques have included acupuncture and tapping the patient’s left hand while working on the right, as well as past technologies such as Nintendo and Game Boy systems.

“We’re hoping that, in the future, better treatment of acute pain during medical procedures may help reduce the emergence of post-traumatic stress disorder for some people in borderline cases,” Hoffman Added.

“Maybe in the future, studies like this one will translate into a new standard of care for pain management,” said Dr. Maani. “Wouldn’t it be great if ‘playing this game’ of immersive virtual reality therapy could stretch your healthcare dollar, reduce suffering caused by poor pain control and decrease potential long-term implications of uncontrolled pain such as post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain syndromes and many other?”

Sincerely Yours

Sam Ammouri


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