As an anesthesiologist, Adeel Faruki, MD, MBA, works with patients to manage not just pain, but also anxiety. It can be a particular concern for patients receiving a nerve block, rather than sedation or general anesthesia, for upper extremity procedures such as hand surgery.
“If a nerve block is done and blocks the nerves innervating the area a surgeon is working on, what we’re generally managing intraoperatively is anxiety and hemodynamic changes,” explains Faruki, an assistant professor of anesthesiology in the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “Patients may feel fear, they may feel claustrophobia, so we started asking how we can reduce the amount of sedative medications given intraoperatively for patients who receive nerve block for upper extremity surgery. We thought, ‘Why don’t we offer them a distraction?'”
This led to recently published research studying virtual reality (VR) immersion compared to monitored anesthesia care for hand surgery.
“As VR has continually grown into the medical sphere, we realized that immersive experiences through VR have the potential to benefit patients as much as the intraoperative treatments we currently use,” Faruki says. “We decided to look at patient satisfaction in a pilot study comparing the two groups’ experiences.”
Virtual reality immersion during surgery
Faruki began this research as a resident at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School, working with his faculty mentor Brian O’Gara, MD, who had an interest in reducing the associated effects of sedation with patients who may not need it to manage pain.
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