Virtual Reality Headset Distracts Patients From Pain and Anxiety Of Surgical Procedure

Women who wore a virtual reality headset during a painful surgical procedure for infertility found the soothing scenes and music reduced their anxiety and discomfort, a study by a Yale researcher shows.

Steven Palter, M.D., assistant professor and clinic chief of reproductive medicine in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Yale School of Medicine, said the headsets were used by women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) under local anesthetic.

The IVF procedure usually takes about 45 minutes and involves inserting a needle into the ovary to remove the eggs. The eggs are later fertilized outside the womb by the husband’s sperm.

“We believe that patients who focus upon the surgical procedure being performed actually have increased pain and anxiety,” said Palter, who presented his findings at a meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in San Diego, Calif. “The virtual reality glasses enable the patient to remove themselves from the reality of the pain and discomfort.”

The clinical study included 93 women undergoing transvaginal oocyte aspiration under local anesthetic, a common but painful procedure performed for infertility.

Half of the women underwent the procedure in the standard way without the headsets. Half the women underwent the procedure wearing the headsets, viewing a video of water scenes accompanied by classical music.

The patients were asked to rate their pain and anxiety before and after the procedure.

Palter said all of the patients who wore the virtual reality headsets were happy with them. Ninety-six percent of the patients who had had the procedure performed with and without the headsets preferred the headsets. Of the entire group who wore the headsets, more than 80 percent of the women reported that the video and music reduced their anxiety level during the procedure. Forty percent of the patients said wearing the headsets also reduced the level of pain they experienced.

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