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Background: The pain of a severe burn injury is often characterised by intense background pain, coupled with severe exacerbations associated with essential procedures such as dressing changes. The experience of pain is affected by patients' psychological state and can be enhanced by the anxiety, fear and distress caused by environmental and visual inputs. Virtual Reality (VR) distraction has been used with success in areas such as burns, paediatrics and oncology. The underlying principle of VR is that attention is diverted from the painful stimulus by the use of engaging, dynamic 3D visual content and associated auditory stimuli. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies undertaken during VR distraction from experimental pain have demonstrated enhancement of the descending cortical pain-control system. Methods/Design: The present study will evaluate the feasibility of introducing a novel VR system to the Burns Unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham for dressing changes: virtual restorative environment therapy (VRET). The study will also explore the system's impact on pain during and after the dressing changes compared to conventional analgesia for ward-based burn dressing changes. A within-subject crossover design will be used to compare the following three conditions: 1. Interactive VRET plus conventional analgesics. Discussion: The study accrual rate is currently slower than predicted by previous audits of admission data. A review of the screening log has found that recruitment has been limited by the nature of burn care, the ability of burn inpatients to provide informed consent and the ability of patients to use the VR equipment. Prior to the introduction of novel interactive technologies for patient use, the characteristics and capabilities of the target population needs to be evaluated, to ensure that the interface devices and simulations are usable.
Small, C., Stone, R., Pilsbury, J., Bowden, M., & Bion, J. (2015). Virtual restorative environment therapy as an adjunct to pain control during burn dressing changes: Study protocol for a randomised controlled trial. Trials, 16(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13063-015-0878-8