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Virtual Reality for Pain Management: Looks Good, But...

Literature Review Finds Room for Improvement in Clinical Research

A review published in the February 26 edition of Clinical Journal of Pain surveys findings from clinical studies of virtual reality (VR) for pain management during medical procedures including chemotherapy, burn management, surgery, and dental treatment, among others. The authors conclude that, while research results are encouraging, there is still substantial need for more and better studies of the treatment modality. Corresponding author Antonio Giordano, MD, PhD, with the Sbarro Health Research Organization at Temple University and University of Siena, Italy, noted that, on the positive side, “VR has proven to be very effective in relieving pain, even in patients subjected to extremely painful procedures, who do not receive proper relief with pharmacological treatments alone.”

Fellow study author Paola Indovina, PhD, with the Institute for High Performance Computing and Networking, ICAR-CNR, Naples, observed, "Despite these promising results, we wanted to point out that further studies involving a greater number of patients are needed both to generalize the observations and to establish predictive factors to select patients who are more likely to benefit from VR.” Among the objectives for future research would be the evaluation of physiological changes that could objectively confirm patient’s self-reporting, and the assessment of efficacy of VR following repeat sessions of treatment. Another author noted that most research conducted to date has used relatively low-technology VR systems, and that today’s more immersive and user-friendly technologies should be evaluated in further studies.

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The journal abstract may be read here.

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