| pain management

Utilizing VR to Help Control Pain

An Interview with PAINWeek Featured Faculty Dr. Brennan Spiegel

Featured Faculty Brennan Spiegel, MD, presented Application of Virtual Reality to Pain Management at the 2020 PAINWeek Live Virtual Conference. In it, he discussed the science and practice of virtual analgesia for acute and chronic pain management. Virtual analgesia involves use of virtual reality (VR) to provide therapeutic benefits for pain management using a combination of audio and visual stimuli through a head-mounted device. He provided attendees with an overview of the basic science undergirding VR, a review of key studies using VR for both acute and chronic pain, and information about the clinical implementation of a VR pain service.

In the interview below, he elaborates on the potential pain relieving efforts of VR.

Newswise — In the wake of the opioid addiction crisis that has cost more than 500,000 U.S. lives, medical investigators have focused on finding new methods to help patients control pain. Brennan Spiegel, MD, director of Cedars-Sinai's Clinical and Translational Science Institute and a pioneer in the medical virtual reality field, spent some time with the Newsroom to explain how virtual reality is helping patients across the medical center.

Newsroom: Cedars-Sinai started experimenting with VR in the hospital setting just five years ago as part of a limited study. Where do we stand now? How have we been using virtual reality in the hospital for the past few years?

Spiegel: In the past few years, we have completed several hospital-wide studies on the use of virtual reality. We completed three studies on using virtual reality to help mitigate pain. Those studies involved more than 300 patients and showed that VR works to reduce pain and can be used effectively to complement traditional medicine.

Together with colleagues in our Obstetrics & Gynecology Department, we studied the use of virtual reality during childbirth as a non-pharmaceutical method of reducing the stress and pain of labor. One of our recent studies used virtual reality for children undergoing infusions for inflammatory bowel disease.

Overall, virtual reality has been studied and now is being used in myriad ways across Cedars-Sinai. We created a website with information about our VR program at Cedars-Sinai, including links to our published research.

There are now well over 5,000 published studies supporting different applications of VR. The FDA has acknowledged VR as a new field. It is no longer an issue of whether using VR is scientifically valid, but whether we are committed to using it in healthcare. Now we have to answer the non-scientific question: Do we have the necessary resources to offer VR to our patients as a therapy alongside traditional medicine?

What does the future of VR look like at Cedars-Sinai?
Our hope is to eventually establish a full-service clinical operation to support the uses of virtual reality in clinical practice, not just for pain but also for anxiety, depression and other conditions. We are looking to partner with Cedars-Sinai Cancer because patients undergoing cancer treatment experience not just pain, but often anxiety and depression as well. We are optimistic that VR can help in all of those areas. We also are working closely with the Cedars-Sinai Department of Psychiatry.


Read the full interview on Newswise.