PORTLAND-- Walk through the halls of Oregon’s only burn center and you’ll likely find a patient wearing virtual reality goggles and noise-canceling headphones.
On screen, they are in a video game battle against angry snowmen and penguins. But the real war is the daily agony of bandage changes.
“People who are burned, as we do the dressing changes, a lot of their pain is pretty amplified,” said Legacy Emanuel nurse Russell Roberts.
He showed KGW a program that he and other staff have been using for a year and a half.
The SnowWorld video system distracts burn patients enough to take their minds off the pain.
“You know we use it on 3 year olds and use it on 85 year olds and it works,” Roberts said. “We typically use about 30 percent less pain medication during a procedure.”
The virtual reality pain relief was developed at the University of Washington. The military is one of its clients. NBC News reports a government study showed SnowWorld worked better for injured soldiers than morphine.
The developers’ own studies found the immersive 3-D images and noise-canceling headphones are key. Regular 2-D video games did not have the same pain relieving effect.
Legacy’s foundation paid for the $65,000 system after a patient who wasn’t being helped by traditional medicine researched the experimental treatment and suggested it to the hospital. The Oregon Burn Center says it is one of just ten places in the U.S. using SnowWorld.
Nurse Roberts says the video game is extremely effective at distracting patients.
“We have to take the glasses off to get people’s attention,” he said.