Virtual reality easing anxiety of cancer treatments

OMAHA, Neb. — Medical professionals now have a new tool in preparing their patients for treatments — virtual reality.

Nebraska Medicine in Omaha is now using virtual reality (VR) simulations of their hospital rooms in order to reduce anxiety in patients and save time in treating them.

One of the first patients undergoing this VR is 13-year-old Darin Neben, who is battling neuroblastoma. By using the hospital’s VR simulation, Neben is able to see and hear everything he will experience during an MRI or radiation treatment.

Though Neben had radiation treatment five years ago, he doesn’t remember the process. Neben’s mother Kristina says “They did not have this five years ago to let him experience it.”

Debbie Wagers, child life specialist at Nebraska Medicine, is the one who started the hospital’s program. After meeting a representative from a VR company, Wagers asked if such an experience was even possible. A year later, that thought is now a reality.

Wagers says the main benefits of the VR simulation is lessening the anxiety in patients and allowing them to undergo treatment without anesthesia. “If they can do it without anesthesia, they can get up in the morning and they can have breakfast,” Wagers says. “They don’t have to have their port accessed, so that would mean no pokes.”

And the peace of mind isn’t only for the patients — parents are able to rest easier as well. “It helps, knowing that you know exactly what they’re going to through,” Karen Neben said. “That way, if they have questions or anything, you’re able to see what they’re doing to help answer those questions appropriately.”

By avoiding anesthesia the patient and their family is able to leave the hospital up to two hours earlier.

Categories: Wellness Wednesdays