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Papers of the Week

Papers: 21 Oct 2023 - 27 Oct 2023

2023 Oct 23



Can virtual reality enhance the patient experience during awake invasive procedures? A systematic review of randomized controlled trials.


Boyce L, Jordan C, Egan T, Sivaprakasam R


Procedural anxiety and pain negatively affect surgical outcomes and the patient experience during awake, invasive procedures (AIPs). This systematic review aims to evaluate the effect of using virtual reality (VR) to enhance the intraprocedural patient experience during AIPs. PRISMA, Cochrane, and SWiM Reporting Items guidelines were followed. PubMed, EMBASE, CENTRAL, and medRxiv databases were systematically searched for randomised controlled trials (RCTs) investigating the use of immersive VR headsets to enhance the patient experience in adults undergoing AIPs. Sixteen studies were included. The VR and control groups comprised 685 and 677 patients, respectively. Patients underwent endoscopic procedures in 9 studies (“endoscopic”) and interventions that involved a skin incision in 7 studies (“incision”). Eleven (of 13) studies demonstrated a favourable effect on procedural anxiety with VR use compared with standard intraprocedural care (85% [95% CI: 46%-100%], P = 0.011). Ten (of 13) studies demonstrated a favourable effect on pain with VR use (77% [95% CI: 38%-100%], P = 0.046). Seven (of 9) studies demonstrated a favourable VR effect on patient satisfaction (78% (95% CI: 44%-100%), P = 0.070). The effect of VR on physiological markers of anxiety and pain and requirements for additional pro re nata (PRN) analgesia and sedation were not clear. No significant differences in patient experience were identified between the “incision” and “endoscopic” subgroups. This review demonstrates that VR can feasibly be used to enhance the patient experience during AIPs by attenuating subjective perceptions of procedural anxiety and pain. However, further RCTs are required to elucidate the effect of VR on more objective measures of the patient experience.