PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Scientists are using virtual reality technology to help patients escape their pain during difficult procedures.
Kevin Walsh is finding relief from his pain, immersing his mind in a 360-degree world of snow and ice. His back was severely burned in a small explosion at work.
“There is one time when I did it doing wound care,” he explained. “They have to peel off my bandages while I’m there, and they peeled off a couple bandages and I didn’t even really notice.”
Walsh is one of a number of patients now using virtual reality to help manage pain.
“It’s a means to pull people’s attention away from very painful procedures,” Dr. David Patterson said.
Dr. Patterson helped pioneer the virtual reality technique, which helps to distract the brain.
“The areas of the brain that light up with pain light up less and they’re just not processing as much,” he explained.
Patterson uses a game called “Snow World,” and with VR goggles, patients hit targets with snowballs during painful medical procedures.
“Overall, we’re seeing 35-percent reductions in pain, where you see somebody’s pain drop from severe to moderate,” Dr. Hunter Hoffman said.
For patients like Walsh, any relief from the pain can help on the road to recovery.
Researchers say the virtual reality technology could also be helpful for other patients, with things like dental procedures or childbirth.
Some doctors are also using virtual reality to help hypnotize patients before procedures to help reduce anxiety levels.