Background: Virtual reality (VR) is a 3-dimensional immersion experience and allows for multiple sensory experiences involving visual and auditory olfactory senses. VR has shown success in the pediatric populations in reducing post-procedural pain. Limited research is available to support VR use in adult patients.
Objective: Evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of virtual reality (VR) in middle to older adults following robotic colorectal surgery with a mean hospital length of stay of 2.5 days.
Methods: A prospective self-controlled intervention study of N=10 post-operative patients with a pain score of at least three on a scale from 0-10 were provided a VR headset in their room to use at least three times a day and on-demand per their preferences from September 2020 to February 2021.
Results: Patients (N=10) had an average age of 61.9 years. Genders were balanced. 80% of patients were white. The patients had a median length of stay of 3 days (Q1-Q3 = [2, 7]). The average pain score was 3.89 (SD=1.40). For each patient, the VR usage rate on average is 3.5. On a scale from 0-5, patients answered an average of 4.08 (somewhat satisfied) to the question of “How satisfied were you with the VR experience?” and 4.29 (somewhat effective) to the question of “How effective was the VR in relieving your patient’s pain?” We stratified the participants into 1) patients who ONLY used VR for diversion/entertainment and 2) patients who ONLY used VR for pain (note that this group could have used VR for entertainment as well). We found that in the entertainment/diversion-only group, length of stay, questions 2 and 3 are positively correlated. We found a positive correlation between VR usage and VR satisfaction rates in pain patients. We found that patients who used VR for entertainment only were younger than the average age, tend to be males, had a shorter length of stay, had less pain, had a higher VR access rate, and are more satisfied with VR.
Conclusion: This feasibility initially supports positive outcomes in adult post-operative patients. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we found that patients used the VR for entertainment diversion due to not having visitors during their hospital stay. In future studies, adding a non-intervention control group can increase the validity of the intervention.