When we think about virtual reality, we often think about gaming or movies. Not many people would think of virtual reality being used in the medical industry, however, virtual reality is finding its feet in the medical field in ways that you might never have thought of. For pain management and surgeon training, virtual reality is a cheap and easily deployed alternative to existing methods. Researchers have been trialling different ways VR could be used in the medical field since the 1990s, but it has really started to take off in recent years. Here are three ways that VR will transform the medical field in 2018.
Trauma surgeons have the hardest time getting the right training as it’s difficult to schedule training for spontaneous events. Unlike other forms of surgery, trauma surgery is unpredictable, which is one reason that virtual reality offers the perfect solution. Using technological advances such as haptic feedback to mimic real life conditions, surgeons can be trained in a variety of procedures without stepping foot in a real operating room. This means that surgeons can train in downtime, rather than waiting around to tack up the experience they need.
For patients who have suffered severe burns or lost limbs, virtual reality can offer a much needed alternative source of pain relief. Studies have shown that burn victims can experience a reduction in their pain symptoms after exploring a virtual world filled with snow and ice. Virtual reality can also help with pain relief as it suppresses the part of the brain that handles pain. As a result, it can be used for patients with chronic pain who cannot take traditional pain medication, or those who find it doesn’t work. And finally, for patients who have lost limbs, virtual reality has been proven to help them manage pain associated with phantom limbs.
A recent study in the UK found that virtual reality could be used to not only lessen the pain experienced during dental extractions, but also lessen the pain of the recovery. Many people needlessly avoid going to the dentist because they are afraid of the pain, but this could be all set to change thanks to virtual reality headsets. In the study, one-third of the group were given a virtual reality headset with beach scenes while one third had a virtual reality headset with cityscape scenes. The control group had no virtual reality headset and instead starred at the blank ceiling. The results showed that those with the beach scene reported less pain throughout the procedure and a much quicker recovery process with less ongoing pain.
It might seem like a scene from a science fiction film, but we could soon be seeing virtual reality in every doctor’s and dentist’s office in the not too distant future. If recent developments are anything to go by, then we have only discovered the tip of the iceberg with regards to the potential uses for virtual reality.