Podiatry anxiety and pain distraction using VRUsing immersive nature trail experiences to distract patients undergoing toe-nail removal

Podiatry VR

Virtual reality has been used in many areas to help patients deal with pain and anxiety related to clinical procedures. VR distraction therapy have been used successfully as adjunct to pharmacological interventions for burn victims, patients undergoing chemotherapy, venipuncture, paediatric phlebotomy and dental pain/fear and anxiety.

Toe-nail removal surgeries often lead to anxiety in patients, especially younger patients. The fear of needles, fear of the procedure itself or anticipation of pain can create anxious moments. A patient suffering from anxiety may cause the toe-nail removal procedure to be delayed, may require additional staff in the room to calm them down or in the worst-case scenario, the surgery may have to be rescheduled. All this costs NHS staff resources. Furthermore, one anxious experience can have long lasting implications on patient’s compliance with future surgical procedures.

In 2019, we provided podiatrists at TSDFT (Newton Abbot hospital, Brixham hospital and Ashburton hospital) with few VR headsets that were loaded with 360-degree nature trail experiences from Dartmoor in Devon, UK. For the past year, podiatrists working with TSDFT have successfully incorporated the VR headsets into the patient distraction tool kit used to distract patients (such as, Where’s Wally activity puzzle book, Kaleidoscope, Breathing Exercises, iPads). Podiatrists have noted a drop in patient anxiety and pain experienced during the toe-nail removal procedure. Patients, upon hearing about the novel tool that is being used often request podiatrists to allow them an opportunity to experience the 360-degree nature trails.

Immersive virtual reality can shut out actual physical reality, forcing the user to focus on the virtual experience. Such experiences may have implications on patient’s presence and act as distraction from anxiety and pain. We have designed a research protocol to study the role of immersive VR 360-degree nature trail experiences in distracting patients undergoing toe-nail removal surgery. We have scanned literature and were unable to come across any references regarding the use of VR for distraction in podiatry.

*Due to COVID-19 our research will resume later in the year

Author: Payal Ghatnekar