Virtual Reality may be the ultimate Anaesthesia

A nurse treats a patient wearing the 3D therapeutic virtual reality headset developped by Healthy Mind start-up, at the emergency service department of the Saint-Joseph Hospital in Paris, France, June 7, 2018. The headset immerses the patient in the heart of a Zen garden or an enchanted forest to counter the pain rather than increase the doses of painkillers. Picture taken June 7, 2018. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

Virtual Reality (VR) is gradually creating a niche for itself in the world’s health sector. Today, various means of easing pain and making the journey to good health, child birth and even some aspects of mental health are alternatively done via virtual reality. Forgetting the cost this incurs on the road to health, as an African, I am not entirely sure the lot of my continent’s citizens will ply this route… except its their last resort.

Reuters reports the impressive creation by three young graduates; an immersive virtual reality program being used in France to relax patients, and even increase their tolerance of pain – without resorting to drugs.

“What we offer is a contemplative world where the patient goes on a guided tour, in interactive mode, to play music, do a bit of painting or work out a riddle,” said Reda Khouadra, one of the 24-year-olds behind the project.

As patients are transported by chunky VR goggles into a three-dimensional world of Japanese zen gardens or snowy hillsides, they become more tolerant of minor but painful procedures such as having a cut stitched, a burn treated, a urinary catheter inserted or a dislocated shoulder pushed back into place.

“The virtual reality project … enables us to offer patients a technique to distract their attention and curb their pain and anxiety when being treated in the emergency room,” said Olivier Ganansia, head of the emergency department at the Saint-Joseph Hospital in Paris.

“I think in 10 years, virtual reality won’t even be a question any more, and will be used in hospitals routinely.”

The Healthy Mind startup is not a world first but has landed a $20,000 prize from a university in Adelaide, Australia – which will now pay for the three founders to present their project at Microsoft’s headquarters in the U.S. city of Seattle.