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UK hospital uses VR to ease kids’ nerves before an MRI

UK hospital uses VR to ease kids’ nerves before an MRI


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YouTube / Kings College Hospital

Magnetic resonance imaging, most common known as an MRI for short, can be a frightening experience, especially for kids. The process involves lying down on a narrow bed, sliding into the middle of a donut-shaped machine, and being bombarded by loud banging noises as the machine goes to work. To help ease children’s nerves before their first MRI, a hospital in the United Kingdom has developed a virtual reality app for kids to watch and prepare themselves for their procedure.

The Kings College Hospital in London this week launched an Android app to be used with virtual reality headsets such as the Google Cardboard. In it, kids can look around the room in 360-degree view and listen as the video explains what to expect when they check into the hospital and get taken to the imaging room.

The team is also thinking about building versions suitable for adults

The goal of the app is to help kids feel calm before their procedure so they won’t require a general anesthetic. An MRI requires the patient to remain still, so if first-timers know what to expect ahead of time and feel immersed in the experience virtually before the real deal, the procedure could be finished more quickly. Presumably, patients outside of Kings College Hospital could also use the app if they’re curious what an MRI feels like. Just be aware that some things, like headphones and a movie to watch while you’re in the scanner, might not be on offer at your local facility.

Kings College Hospital will be offering links to the app in select appointment letters as the app continues to trial. An iOS version is also expected to be available soon. If the app helps a significant portion of young patients, the team will roll it out more widely. The team is also thinking about creating similar apps for other medical experiences, such as needle biopsies and surgeries, and building versions suitable for adults.