Virtual reality reduces ICU patients' pain and anxiety during painful procedures


A clinical trial at Bellvitge Hospital shows that the experience of patients undergoing chest drain removal after heart surgery improves with the incorporation of this immersive practic

ICU patients who have to undergo a rather painful treatment such as the removal of chest drains after cardiac surgery have seen a 25% reduction in pain and a 30% reduction in distress thanks to the use of virtual reality glasses, according to a clinical study conducted by nurse Laia Gascón in the ICU of the Bellvitge University (HUB).

The study has been carried out over the last year on 100 patients, half of whom had their chest drains removed with analgesic pre-treatment and virtual reality goggles, while the other 50 patients had their drains removed with analgesic support only.

Pain and anxiety levels before, immediately after and 30 minutes after the drain removal procedure have been measured with standardised assessments, with the addition of key vital signs such as blood pressure, heart and respiratory rates and blood oxygen levels.

Patients who used the virtual reality glasses showed a significant reduction in pain, anxiety and average blood pressure compared to patients in the control group, "which allows us to conclude that it is a safe, easy-to-use and highly effective non-pharmacological tool," explains Laia Gascón. The average satisfaction index of patients who used the immersive tool was 8.3.

Drains play a crucial role in the recovery of patients following cardiac surgery, being vital for maintaining optimal haemodynamic function by eliminating excess blood, fluids, and trapped air around the heart. This helps stave off complications like severe bleeding and inflammation. Typically, these drains are removed within 24 to 48 hours post-surgery, a process that tends to be quite uncomfortable, necessitating the use of pain relief medications.

Throughout the 15 to 20-minute extraction procedure, patients don a pair of specially designed glasses, to enjoy immersive video experiences curated from VRPharma extensive library, a key collaborator in this groundbreaking study.

Marta Martínez, Sara González, Laura Garcia, Silvia Serrano, Josep Maria Ramos, Ariadna Puig, and Gemma Via were also integral participants in this study, with Laia Gascón at the helm as the principal investigator. The study's findings were unveiled at the recent SEEUIC (Spanish Society of Intensive Care Nursing and Coronary Units) congress, which took place last June in Malaga.

This study is one of several humanization initiatives undertaken by the ICU and Bellvitge Hospital as a whole, a longstanding commitment to enhance the overall patient experience within the facility, extending beyond the realm of medical care. In this vein, it's noteworthy that this year, HUB has undertaken a transformation of its 64

Intensive Care Unit (ICU) cubicles, introducing sensory elements like lights, projections, sounds, and vibrations. This innovative approach aims to promote both functional and cognitive rehabilitation for critically ill patients.

Subscriu-te als nostres butlletins

Selecciona el butlletí que vols rebre: