Study suggests VR games may help children better cope with p
Dealing with a painful medical procedure is difficult for anyone, but often more so if the patient is a child. Now, a recent study suggests that gameplaying using virtual reality (VR) headsets—if the games are appropriate and carefully chosen for pediatric clinical situations—may be an engaging and practical addition to the list of distraction therapy options.

The research team conducted a small-scale study to evaluate the therapeutic impact on pediatric patients playing virtual reality games during a venipuncture procedure.

The researchers randomly assigned 55 patients—ranging in age from 7 to 22 and receiving venipuncture procedures —to three groups. The first group of 15 patients, played VR games in the presence of a child life specialist. The second group, consisting of 20 patients, did not use VR but was supported by a child life specialist. The remaining 20 patients in the third group did not have child life specialist support or VR games.

- Overall, the study found patients who played VR games during their venipuncture procedure benefitted from reduced pain and anxiety, and that the combination of VR and support from a child life specialist worked best.

- However, the researchers also found that children who used VR during venipunctures had significantly longer procedure times—by 4–6 minutes on average—than those who had only child life specialist support or no distraction therapy at all.

"We found that games involving little movement of the head and arms, played without high anxiety scenarios—such as military battles or zombie attacks—and not requiring a controller or extensive menu options, worked best because they added the least amount of extra time to a venipuncture procedure," the researcher says.

Hospital Pediatrics