In the OR at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center: Using VR for pediatric anxiety

In the OR at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center: Using VR for pediatric anxiety

With rattling nerves and anxiety, six-year-old Gavin spent his Wednesday morning having reconstructive surgery on a tumor in his hand. Dr. Ray Raven, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in hand and upper extremity surgery, saw an opportunity to use Virtual Reality as an alternative to ease Gavin's anxiety and fear.

Under normal circumstances, pediatric patients are given Versed, a pre-op medication used to cause drowsiness and help decrease anxiety. However, the effects of this drug can continue to linger after surgery and throughout the day. "If we can avoid giving them pre-medication often times its preferable" stated Dr. Brian Lee, the anesthesiologist for Gavin's surgery.

As Dr. Raven brought out the VR headset, Gavin was immediately intrigued. In a matter of seconds, Gavin was immersed in the distracting games projected in the headset. He was placed in an environment that made him feel remarkably less anxious.

Having a surgery at such a young age is considerably a scary thought, not just for the child, but for his parents, too. “The more anxious the parents are, the kids begin to feel the same way and vice versa,” stated Dr. Raven. Fortunately, the headset drastically reduced everyone's anxiety about the procedure making it correspondingly easier for the doctor, anesthesiologist, and nurses who took part in Gavin's surgery.

Replacing Versed with virtual reality therapy prior to his surgery meant the lingering drug effects doctors worry about were not present and demonstrated how VR can improve outcomes both before and after procedures.