Randomized, Crossover Study of Immersive Virtual Reality to Decrease Opioid Use During Painful Wound Care Procedures in Adults

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The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of immersive virtual reality (IVR) distraction therapy during painful wound care procedures in adults on the amount of opioid medications required to manage pain. A convenience sample of consenting, adult inpatients requiring recurrent painful wound care procedures was studied. Using a within-subject, randomized controlled trial study design, 2 sequential wound procedures were compared, 1 with IVR distraction therapy and 1 without IVR. Total opioid medications administered before and during the wound procedures were recorded and pain and anxiety were rated before and after the 2 wound procedures. The IVR intervention included the wearing of virtual reality goggles and participation in an immersive, computer generated, interactive, 3-dimensional virtual world program. Data were analyzed with Student’s t test and chi-square analysis, with P < 0.05 considered significant. A total of 18 patients were studied, with 12 completing both study wound procedures and 6 completing a single wound procedure. The amount of opioid administered before each of the 2 wound procedures was similar with and without IVR. Total opioid administration during the dressing procedures with IVR was significantly less than when no IVR was used, 17.9 ± 6.0 and 29.2 ± 4.5 mcg/kg fentanyl, respectively (t = -2.7; df = 14; P = 0.02). Two of 15 patients (11%) requested more than 1 opioid rescue dose with IVR and 9 of 15 patients (60%) requested more than 1 rescue dose without IVR. Seventy-five percentage of participants stated that they would want to use IVR with future dressing changes. Pain and anxiety scores were similar for the wound procedures with and without IVR (P > 0.05). IVR significantly reduced the amount of opioid medication administered during painful wound care procedures when IVR was used compared with no IVR. Since pain scores were similar before and after the wound procedures with IVR and without IVR, the 39% reduction in opioid medication during IVR supports its use as a pain distraction therapy during painful procedures.

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