“SnowWorld” Uses VR as Painkiller or Pain Reduction at Hospital

Virtual Reality, VR, Immersive Technology & Simulated Environment

“SnowWorld” Uses VR as Painkiller or Pain Reduction at Hospital

SnowWorld VR as Painkiller
SnowWorld in Action. (Credit: University of Washington)

Virtual reality aka VR as painkiller has a huge benefit in the hospital and medical industry. This is good especially for kids since it is very hard to handle them during the treatment because they are always moving, crying, screaming or shouting. This might cause the doctors become more stressful in their daily job.

As the last resort to handle the tantrum, usually the doctors will use the sleeping gas to make to make them drowsy and fall asleep or use drugs as pain reliever. Hence, one of the way to overcome that situation is to use virtual reality as a therapy to reduce the pain or as a distraction to the patient. One of the solution is called “SnowWorld“. Example of places already using this solution are Shriners Hospitals for Children in Galveston, Texas and Harborview Burn Center.

How VR as Painkiller Works in SnowWorld?

The main target for SnowWorld is for the burn patients when the hospital want to perform treatment to them such as removing the staples, stitches, dead skin and cleaning the wound at the burnt area. Ouchh!!! Here, the hospital will provide the patients with the VR headset, audio headphone and controller prior to the treatment. Once they don the helmet, they will be transported to the ice, chilly and snowy landscape of SnowWorld.

In the virtual world, the patients can hang around enjoying the blue and white icy scenery. But the most popular activity is throwing the snowballs at the snowmen, flying fish or penguins that keep coming.

You must be wondering, why they use ice and snow as the background of the solution? Well, it is because the cold ice is the opposite of the burning fire. This setting can help to trick the patients’ psychology and state of mind during the treatment. Hence, it can greatly reduce the brain’s concentration on the pain.

What is the Level of Effectiveness?

Although looks like a bit childish, SnowWorld can work both for children and adults as well. Based on the experience of the patients, it is working well with them. They claimed that the pain can be reduced from 35% to 50%. And the analysis shown that during the VR session, the pain receptors in the brain are much less active.

This might be due to the fact that the patients are deeply engage in the scenery of the magical snowy landscape and keep their focus on the cute characters inhabiting the SnowCanyon.

Another benefit of using this approach is it can reduce the number of drugs taken during the procedure such as morphine and opioids. This is good since taking strong doses of them might also have some side effects to the patients.

This looks to be kinda breakthrough for the anesthetic industry. Thanks to Hunter Hoffman and David Patterson from University of Washington for creating this kind of solution to the world and keep fine tuning them since year 2000. To keep up with the trend, the latest SnowWorld version is also designed for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive as well. For more info, you can read it at:
1) “SnowWorld melts away pain for burn patients, using virtual reality snowballs” from GeekWire.
2) “Virtual Reality Pain Reduction” from Human Photonics Laboratory, University of Washington.
3) “Virtual SnowWorld Helps Burn Victims Cope with Extreme Pain” from R&D Magazine.

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One Response

  1. There are many studies on VR as a pain killer and I’m always reading very positive things on this topic. I think that VR can be very powerful on this side.

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