How virtual reality helps doctors and patients

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — Can a doctor prescribe treatment with a computer simulation? It’s easy when it comes to VR technology. This method of patient rehabilitation is becoming increasingly popular.

The market of virtual and augmented reality technologies every year offers more and more new solutions for healthcare needs. Together with Rostec State Corporation, we made a review of what is already being put into practice now.

Reduction of chronic pain

VR technology can be a safe alternative to potent painkillers. Such drugs are consumed by most patients with chronic pain. Moreover, many of them do it uncontrollably. In the USA, they even coined the term “opioid epidemic” for this phenomenon. On average, it leads to the death of 100 people daily.

Meanwhile, studies prove that immersion in virtual reality can reduce pain by 25%. Several foreign companies immediately offer solutions in this direction.

So, at the Simon Fraser University in Canadian Vancouver, the Farmoo project is being implemented . Its authors have found a way to treat chronic pain by traveling to virtual worlds. Patients are transferred from the hospital room to the ocean, can swim with whales or go into outer space. This distracts them from discomfort and allows you to relieve stress.

Often people who survive an accident or injury with subsequent amputation complain of phantom pain . Patients with this syndrome usually complain of a feeling of itching, burning, tingling. Until recently, it was believed that effective treatment does not exist, but everything has changed thanks to developments using VR-technologies. Among them the decision of the American company Karuna Labs

A special application allows you to simulate the work of missing limbs. Thanks to visualization, the brain receives confirmation that everything is in order with the body, after which it eliminates pain signals. According to patients, after such therapy, not only the intensity of the pain, and the frequency of their occurrence noticeably decreases.

The developers of OnComfort , whose office is based in Brussels, have figured out how to alleviate pain in patients diagnosed with cancer. Standard VR headsets and controllers incorporate additional sensors that measure stress levels. As soon as a person starts to get nervous, the algorithms display a calming picture. Tests prove that thanks to the method, the concentration of attention to pain is reduced by 48%, while in the case of opioid painkillers this indicator does not exceed 10%.

Help with Autism

According to statistics, about 70 million people on the planet suffer from autism spectrum disorders. In the medical classification of diseases under the concept of “autism”, many diagnoses have been collected, including Asperger syndrome. All types of such disorders are characterized by serious difficulties in communicating with others.

There is a special therapy designed to help the patient socialize. But treatment involves regular meetings with the doctor, and this is where the problem arises. The need for contact with a stranger drives patients into even greater stress.

The creators of startup Floreo from the United States found a solution. The developers suggest using VR in the early stages of treatment. The method is suitable for both adults and children. Patients do not have to leave the walls of their home. Instead, they go for a walk in virtual reality. During such sessions, you can look at giraffes in the zoo or make friends in the chat.

The entire process is remotely controlled by a doctor – his phone or tablet is synchronized with a patient’s device through a special application. The specialist sees on the screen the same picture as his ward, and gives various tasks. Multiple simulations allow people with autism spectrum disorders to understand how to behave better in a given situation.

Vision recovery

The myth that modern gadgets are harmful to vision is firmly rooted in the public mind. At the same time, VR headsets are successfully used in ophthalmology. Virtual reality helps, for example, cope with the “lazy eye” syndrome (amblyopia). With this disease, one eye works worse, and the brain shifts the entire load to the other.

The Vivid Vision application , which teaches the eyes to work synchronously, can solve the problem . The technique has also proven effective in treating strabismus. It is already used in American clinics.

High technology can be a salvation for patients who cannot be helped surgically. The IrisVision project team has developed a special VR application that allows you to control virtual objects with eye movements. This therapy improves vision in visually impaired people.

And experts from Microsoft have developed a VR-system designed to help blind people navigate in space. The device in the form of a white cane, called Canetroller, is combined with a headset and tracker. It allows blind patients to interact with virtual reality objects. Through vibration feedback and sound using a cane, you can distinguish between objects and surfaces of different types.

Rehabilitation for loss of motor activity

Among VR-technologies for medicine there are solutions of Russian manufacturers. Among them is the ReviVR neurotracer , which is already successfully used to recover patients who have suffered a stroke or spinal cord injury. The device was developed by the holding “Roselectronics” of the State Corporation Rostec in conjunction with Samara State Medical University and is used in medical institutions in Russia.

The hardware and software complex consists of a compressor unit for air injection, pneumatic cuffs, VR glasses and special software. The neurotracer acts on three key organs of the human senses: touch, sight and hearing.

The patient is immersed in a virtual environment and can see himself in an upright position. Due to the stimulation of brain activity, neural connections are restored, a person “gets used” to an upright position, which favorably affects the patient’s condition. A pneumatic headset complements visual perception due to tactile sensations. For example, with pneumatic cuffs that put pressure on the feet, ReviVR allows you to simulate different walking speeds.

The effectiveness of rehabilitation directly depends on how quickly it was carried out. For example, with a stroke, the use of the complex gives the greatest effectiveness in the first 48 hours after a recorded fact of cerebrovascular accident. Passing a rehabilitation course on the ReviVR simulator in the hospital during this period improves the performance of motor activity by half.


This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for OBSERVATORY NEWS from different countries around the world – material edited and published by OBSERVATORY staff in our newsroom.

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