For many people, having surgery can be a frightening and anxious experience. Patients may experience increased stress levels before their treatments due to a combination of factors including fear of the unknown, worries about pain, complications, and the surgical process. A recent global meta-analysis revealed that, depending on their age, previous medical experiences, and interactions with medical personnel, almost half of all patients have significant worry before surgery. Researchers at the University of Miami investigated the possibility of augmented reality (AR) as a method to reduce preoperative tension and anxiety in response to this widespread problem.
The study conducted by the University of Miami involved 95 patients with a mean age of 38, all scheduled for elective orthopedic surgeries. The researchers divided the participants into two groups: one group received the conventional standard surgical instructions package, while the other group had the additional benefit of a three-minute AR experience guided by the head surgeon. The AR encounter was designed to merge the patient’s reality with augmented elements specific to the hospital environment and the forthcoming surgery. This approach aimed to demystify the surgical process, offering an interactive and personalized way to tackle the “fear of the unknown.”
What sets AR apart from virtual reality (VR) is that it enhances real-world surroundings and maintains the user’s control over the experience. Unlike VR, where the environment is entirely simulated, AR adds supplementary information to the actual environment, often through smartphone screens or dedicated headsets. This technology has already found its way into various applications, such as the popular game Pokémon GO, demonstrating its accessibility and potential for engagement.
Throughout the patients’ surgical journey, anxiety levels were surveyed four times—twice before the surgery and twice after. The group exposed to the AR experience consistently displayed reduced stress levels leading up to the procedure. Notably, this decrease in anxiety was not only substantial but also persisted in subsequent surveys, indicating a lasting impact of the preoperative AR preparation.
Importantly, both groups revealed comparable degrees of anxiety after the procedure itself. Although the AR experience in this study was customized to a particular surgery, surgeon, and facility, it opens the door to more extensive possibilities. Further investigation is required to determine whether AR should be tailored to each patient’s specific needs or if it may be used as a universally useful technique in a variety of surgical scenarios.
The study’s results, which were published in the JAMA Network Open, illuminate the potential of AR as a proactive measure to reduce preoperative anxiety and improve patient wellbeing. The incorporation of augmented reality in healthcare settings may develop into a crucial part of patient-cantered care as technology advances, changing the way patients approach and experience surgery.
Top of Form