Dr. Scott Comulada was motivated to start this project by his six-year-old daughter, pictured to the left, who had a minor surgery last year. The smile in the picture belies the fear and anxiety she expressed. Understandably, it can be a pretty traumatic experience for a child to face surgery, as it may be hard to explain what surgery is to them. Anxiety before surgery is common and can complicate surgical recovery, which can burden patients and hospitals with additional costs.
Current standards of care for children to alleviate anxiety before surgery
· Written material/orientation videos
· 360-virtual tours
· Play distraction on the day of the surgery
· Medications to help alleviate some of the anxiety
None immerse the child in the perioperative experience so they can become familiar with what they will face.
Can we do better than current standards of care? Yes! Virtual reality (VR) provides an immersive experience and is currently used for patients with phobias and PTSD as shown on the left. Why not offer children a VR orientation to alleviate anxiety before their surgery?
How it will work. Children undergoing elective surgery will be given a VR headset before the day of surgery. The headset will allow them to walk through the perioperative experience and communicate with avatars of their clinical care team. Patients will be able to virtually experience events that will happen before and after their surgery: being in the pre-op room, meeting and talking with nurses and physicians, being wheeled into the operating room, the mask with anesthesia being placed over their face, and then waking up in the recovery room.
How your donations will help. The VR perioperative experience will be evaluated at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital. Our team has already taken video footage of the perioperative environment that will be used to build a virtual hospital environment. Sample still shots of the pre-op room and OR are shown below. Donations are needed to build the VR prototype and program the VR experience. For example, programming is needed to build virtual hospital rooms, equipment in the rooms, avatars the patients will interact with and to support communication between patients and avatars.