Using Augmented Reality to Reduce Surgical Anxiety

A recent study conducted by medical specialists and computer scientists at the University of Miami has found that utilizing augmented reality (AR) can effectively reduce anxiety levels in patients scheduled for surgery. The study, published in JAMA Network Open, involved outfitting patients with AR gear prior to an orthopedic procedure and comparing their anxiety levels against a control group.

Surgical procedures often induce anxiety due to the fear of the unknown and the anticipation of being operated on. To address this issue, researchers have been exploring methods to alleviate anxiety in patients. One approach has been the use of virtual reality (VR) to provide patients with a virtual simulation of the surgical experience. However, VR is a passive experience.

In this study, the researchers investigated whether AR could be a more effective approach. They asked 140 individuals scheduled for elective orthopedic surgery to participate in an AR experiment. Of these, 95 patients underwent the AR experience, while the remaining 45 were excluded. The participants were divided into two groups: one group received standard pre-operative instructions, and the other group received standard instructions along with a three-minute AR experience narrated by their surgeon.

The participants were surveyed four times at different stages of their experience to assess their anxiety levels. The researchers found that those in the AR group reported lower levels of anxiety and stress compared to the control group. The study concludes that AR can be an effective tool for reducing pre-operative stress and anxiety, but further research is needed to determine its efficacy in broader settings.

This study highlights the potential of AR in healthcare settings, specifically in reducing anxiety levels in surgical patients. By providing patients with an interactive and immersive experience, AR offers a unique opportunity to alleviate anxiety and improve patient outcomes.

– Michael G. Rizzo et al, Augmented Reality for Perioperative Anxiety in Patients Undergoing Surgery, JAMA Network Open (2023). DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.29310