Effect of Virtual Reality on Adolescent Pain During Burn Wound Care

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The objective of this study was to compare the effect of virtual reality to passive distraction and standard care on burn treatment pain in adolescents.

This single-blinded, randomized controlled study enrolled 30 adolescents who were 10 to 17 years of age from the burn clinic of a large children’s hospital. After providing informed consent/assent, these participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups during wound care: standard care, passive distraction watching a movie, or virtual reality (VR) using a tripod-arm device rather than an immersive helmet. Before wound care, participants completed the Spielberger’s State-Trait Anxiety Inventory for Children and Pre-Procedure Questionnaire while blinded to group assignment. A total of 28 participants completed the study and rated treatment pain after wound care by using the Adolescent Pediatric Pain Tool and completed a Post-Procedure Questionnaire. The VR group reported less pain during wound care than either the passive distraction or standard care group as determined by multivariable linear regression adjusted for age, sex, preprocedure pain, state anxiety, opiate use, and treatment length. The VR group was the only group to have an estimated decrease in pain perception from baseline preprocedure pain to procedural pain reported. Adolescents pretreated with opiate analgesics and female adolescents reported more pain during wound care.

This between-subjects clinical study provides further support for VR, even without requiring wearing of an immersive helmet, in lessening burn wound care pain in adolescents. Passive distraction by watching a movie may be less effective in reducing treatment pain. Additional between-subjects randomized controlled trials with larger samples of children and during other healthcare treatments may further support VR’s effectiveness in pediatric procedural pain management.

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