Pain Distraction During Ambulatory Surgery: Virtual Reality and Mobile Devices

Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2019 Jan;22(1):15-21. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2017.0714. Epub 2018 Sep 25.


Virtual reality (VR) pain distraction has been applied across medical, surgical, and behavioral healthcare domains, marking a shift in pain attenuation practices. However, there is little research that has been performed to compare the efficacy of traditional head-mounted displays (HMDs) versus portable VR devices. The present study evaluated 44 outpatients in need of lipoma resection. Randomized into two groups-HMD versus mobile phone VR-participants navigated pain distraction virtual environments while undergoing surgery. Vital signs and subjective pain measurements via a visual analog scale were taken before, during, and after the surgery. Results indicate that the HMD group reported greater pain reduction than the Mobile group. Overall, this study points to the efficacy of nonpharmacological pain attenuation practices. Although both systems reduced pain during surgery, the clinically validated VR environments seen in the HMD group were more effective. This study does show that inexpensive solutions can work in surgical settings. Future research should be performed to identify the most effective VR pain distraction systems.

Keywords: ambulatory surgery; mobile phone; pain distraction; virtual reality.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Surgical Procedures* / adverse effects
  • Ambulatory Surgical Procedures* / methods
  • Cell Phone*
  • Humans
  • Lipoma / surgery
  • Pain Management* / instrumentation
  • Pain Management* / methods
  • Pain Measurement
  • Virtual Reality*