We spend more and more hours in front of the computer. This can affect our health on many levels. And one of them, although it sometimes goes unnoticed, is the increased probability of suffering from conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome or osteoarthritis. In short, since information technology governs a good part of our lives, trauma teams have more and more hand surgeries on their agendas. These surgeries are usually done with Local anesthesia, looking for the right amount so that patients do not feel pain, but can interact with surgeons if necessary. That is what is being done at the moment. However, according to a recently published study by scientists at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC)could soon be added to the equation virtual reality.
And there is a problem with the usual procedure. First, a preoperative pain block is performed and then, once the intervention has begun, something known as monitored anesthesia care (MAC). This involves adding a sedative intravenously, such as propofolin the appropriate dose, but increasing it if necessary.
The problem is that if this dose is raised too much It could be dangerous. Among the resulting effects are a drop in blood pressure, obstruction of the airways, and even heart attack or stroke. This is not likely, as anesthesiologists know very well how far they can go. But, even so, it is important to always look for the minimum doses, without causing suffering to the patient. Here, although it may not seem like it, stress also plays a relevant role, and that is where virtual reality comes into play.
Virtual reality to combat pain
Virtual reality has proven to be a very useful tool for treating mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression or even eating disorders.
Given that pain, even though there is a clear cause for its origin, also has a certain mental component, it has been studied for years if immersing yourself in a virtual world could help combat it. And the truth is that, based on the results of these investigations, seems quite doable.
That is why these scientists, whose results are now being presented in PLOS Onethey thought that this technique could be useful for reduce anesthesia in hand operations.
To prove it, they had the participation of 34 adultswho underwent different types of hand surgeries between December 2018 and August 2019. All of them were divided into two groups, of which the first received only MAC and the second combined the MAC with virtual reality.
The scenarios could be chosen by the patients themselves, from a list of scenes, all directed at the relaxation. They had the glasses and also some noise-canceling headphones, so that the experience was even more immersive.
Same perception, but less anesthesia
In fact, patients in the two groups made similar statements after surgery. They all said that the pain was under control and how they felt relaxed. However, the dose of anesthesia was lower for those who used virtual reality.
In fact, of the 17 who used virtual reality, only four required a dose of propofol during the operation. In contrast, in the group that only had MAC, it was necessary to administer at least one dose to all.
It is important to note that those in the virtual reality group also received anesthesia. The experience does not eliminate the root pain, but it does require fewer doses of these substances to alleviate it. In addition, another interesting fact is that the patients who used virtual reality were discharged from the post-anesthetic care unit an average of 22 minutes before.
Therefore, although the results should be reproduced with a larger number of volunteers, for the moment the results leave much room for optimism. Finding new ways to reduce the need for anesthesia is essential. And now that new technologies are fully in our lives, virtual reality can be a good option. Since it’s technology that’s behind many of these hand conditions, it’s at least a consolation that the technology itself helps fix it with less pain.