Surgical professionals know opioids are not always the best way to control post-op pain, yet many still focus on using the drugs to help patients feel comfortable after surgery. It’s time to employ other treatments, even if it means thinking outside the box. Enter virtual reality (VR). Studies show the technology reduces acute pain and anxiety during medical procedures.
When it was discovered that our same-day robotic hysterectomy patients were the second-highest consumers of opioids in the PACU, despite having undergone a minimally invasive and innovative procedure, we decided to find out if adding VR to our multimodal analgesia regimen would reduce their pain levels. The research project involved 64 patients, 22 of whom received VR combined with multimodal analgesia, which included some combination of acetaminophen, NSAIDs, COX-2 inhibitors and gabapentin/pregabalin. The patients were given VR headsets in pre-op and could choose from a variety of relaxing and meditative experiences, such as sightseeing in London or swimming with dolphins. Before undergoing anesthesia, patients had the option to utilize VR for as little as five minutes or for up to 30 minutes.