November 14, 2019
A new program at Temple University Hospital is utilizing virtual reality headsets to aide in the recovery of burn victims, who may find they need less pain medication with the assistance of VR technology.
Burns account for one of the most difficult rehabilitation programs in the world of medicine. Not only do patients experience debilitating pain, but they often have to get accustomed to changes in their physical appearance and the psychological trauma that comes with it.
The Burn Center unit at Temple University Hospital introduced VR headsets based on research showing that it can successfully limit the need for powerful narcotics to reduce pain. It can also dull the patient's perception of pain while stretching and receiving wound care.
When the headsets are on, patients have an opportunity to escape their dire surroundings and experience a type of freedom they lack during their recovery.
The VR headsets at Temple come programmed with environmental scenes and immersion experiences with the dinosaurs from "Jurrassic Park." There also 360-degree games that allow patients to participate in life-like challenges and competitions.
“In therapy, we need patients to do things that are painful sometimes, so VR is a way to distract them from that. It can also help enhance range of motion and function," said Stephanie Velez, a physical therapist with the Burn Center.
Temple acquired the VR headsets with a grant from former Philadelphia Flyers player Brandon Manning, the son of a firefighter who decided to help out after a few tours of the Burn Center.
The technology isn't a cure for the physical and psychological wounds of burn victims, but it offers a powerful tool in their journey to a restored quality of life.
“The technology lets them appear to do things physically that maybe they can’t do in real life, due to their injuries, and that can be healing,” said Burn Center director Dr. Lisa Rae, "even for just 5 or 10 minutes, giving them a chance to ‘get out’ of their hospital room."