A virtual reality (VR) tour of the operating room can help reduce preoperative anxiety in children, according to a study in South Korea.
Researchers created a four-minute VR video showing Pororo the little penguin visiting the operating theatre for surgery and explaining what is there in a friendly manner.
Seventy children scheduled for elective surgery under general anaesthesia at Seoul National University Bundang Hospital were randomised to a control group, which received the usual information about anaesthesia and surgery, and a virtual reality group, which watched the VR video.
The results, published in the British Journal of Surgery, showed that children in the VR group had lower levels of anxiety and improved compliance during the induction of anaesthesia.
“Medical practice has been changing a great deal with the convergence of ICT – information and communications technology – and healthcare” commented Dr Sung-Hee Han, senior author of the study. “This study shows how medicine and ICT can be coordinated to achieve clinical significance.”
Around the world, VR is already being used in a variety of healthcare and medical applications, ranging from pain and stress management therapy to medical training and surgical preparations, according to ABI Research.
The research firm notes that, although many VR applications in the healthcare sector are still niche, growth is being driven by increased interest from medical professionals, hospitals and medical institutions.
ABI Research forecasts that VR services for medical and healthcare use will generate $8.9m (£6.7m) in 2017, with the value of the market growing to $285m (£216m) by 2022.