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Papers of the Week

2020 Sep

Anasthesiol Intensivmed Notfallmed Schmerzther



[Use of Virtual Reality as a Component of Acute and Chronic Pain Treatment].


Lindner S, Latoschik M-E, Rittner H
Anasthesiol Intensivmed Notfallmed Schmerzther. 2020 Sep; 55(9):549-561.
PMID: 32916738.


Future or reality? Treating acute and chronic pain is a part of the daily routine of clinical anesthesiologists. Commonly used analgesics have unwanted side effects or may even be insufficient as in chronic pain treatment. Virtual Reality (VR) could be a promising new approach which offers noninvasive therapy options for the treatment of pain. In case of the opioid misuse the adjunctive treatment is mandatory. Various phenomena occur in VR, such as immersion, presence, embodiment and Proteus effect, which can cause a change in body awareness and behavior. Experimental and clinical studies already yielded some promising results for analgesic effects for acute and chronic pain conditions using VR simulation. Potential analgesic mechanisms include distraction, cognitive behavioral change, and distance from reality, leading to neurophysiological changes at the cortical level. The quality of the virtual environment, personalized avatars, as well as the possibility of interaction and multisensory input can increase immersion, which leads to a state of presence, and thus effective VR. VR can be used as an immersive extension or alternative to mirror therapy, especially for pain disorders such as complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) or phantom limb pain. VR can be supplemented by gamification, which increases intrinsic motivation, well-being and adherence to therapy. In summary, VR could be an effective and realistic therapy option for acute and chronic pain in clinical and home settings in the future.