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VR goggles: A reality for recovery

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Primary care physician James Daniels, MD, and sports psy-chologist Lindsay Ross-Stewart, PhD, want to change how rural patients recover from hip or joint replacement surgery using virtual reality goggles.

Thanks to a collaboration grant from SIU Medicine and SIU Edwardsville, Drs. Daniels and Ross-Stewart will test whether a combination of guided imagery and virtual reality goggles can help patients recover. Ross-Stewart, an expert in imag-ery research at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, says the low-cost technology could help participants regain their independence, reduce the perception of pain and lead to faster recoveries.

“This grant will not only lead to a new and innovative way of helping patients recover from total hip or knee surgery, there is great potential to use this for veterans who are dealing with orthopaedic conditions, including limb amputation.” Dr. Daniels, SIU family medicine physicians Amit Sapra, MD, and Dae Jeong, MD, and Orthopedic Center of Illinois orthopedic surgeon Gor-don Allen, MD, will recruit 40 or more participants for the study.

Before undergoing surgery, participants will wear a head mount with two cameras and film themselves doing the pre-scribed physical therapy exercises. The research team will use this footage to create first person, three dimensional videos for participants to watch using virtual reality goggles following surgery.

To enhance the immersive simulation of the virtual reality goggles, participants will listen to guided imagery, such as, “See and feel being able to complete the exercises” and “You are comfortable as you push yourself.” “When participants hear this guided imagery script, it’s an experience that mimics real life,” says Dr. Ross-Stewart. “We can be aware of ‘seeing’ an image, feeling movements as an image, or experiencing an image of smell, tastes or sounds without actually experiencing the real thing.”

“Imagery-assisted virtual reality has the potential to radi-cally change the way after-surgery patient care is prescribed,” adds Dr. Daniels, director of the sports medicine fellowship at the SIU Center for Family Medicine in Quincy. “We believe it will decrease the patient’s pain perception and that patients will feel more confident in their ability to complete rehabilitation and complete daily tasks without falling.”

Drs. Daniels and Ross-Stewart will track participants’ recov-ery and pain perception for four weeks following surgery to assess the technology’s usefulness. If successful, Dr. Daniels hopes the pilot study will open the door to future collabora-tions and exploratory research grants.

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