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Immersion in virtual world alleviates pain from injury

Virtual reality games can help alleviate pain in children being treated for severe injuries, according to research published today in the Open Access, peer reviewed journal BMC Pediatrics.

Immersion in a virtual world of monsters and aliens helps children feel less pain during the treatment of severe injuries such as burns, according to a preliminary study by Karen Grimmer and colleagues from the Women's and Children's Hospital in Adelaide, Australia.

A virtual reality game is a computer game especially designed to completely immerse the user in a simulated environment. Unlike other computer games, the game is played wearing a special headset with two small computer screens and a special sensor, which allows the player to interact with the game and feel a part of its almost dreamlike world. "Owing to its ability to allow the user to immerse and interact with the artificial environment that he/she can visualize, the game-playing experience is engrossing", explain the authors.

Children with severe burns suffer great pain and emotional trauma, especially during the cleaning and dressing of their wounds. They are usually given strong painkiller drugs, muscle relaxants or sedatives, but these are often not enough to completely alleviate pain and anxiety. These medications also have side effects such as drowsiness, nausea or lack of energy.

Grimmer and colleagues asked seven children, aged five to eighteen, to play a virtual reality game while their dressing was being changed. The children were also given the usual amount of painkillers. The researchers assessed the pain the children felt when they were playing and then compared it to the amount of pain felt when painkillers were used alone.

To measure the intensity of the pain, the team used the Faces Scale, which attributes a score from 0 to 10, wherein 10 represents maximum pain, to a facial manifestation of pain. For younger children they used 5 different faces representing n
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Contact: Juliette Savin
juliette.savin@biomedcentral.com
44-207-631-99-31
BioMed Central
2-Mar-2005


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