PhD Scientific Days 2024

Budapest, 9-10 July 2024

Mental Health Sciences I.

Virtual Reality Based Preparation for MRI Examinations in Children.


Sándor Erdős MD1
1: Semmelweis University Pediatric Centre Tűzoltó Street Department

Text of the abstract

Virtual reality-based preparation for MRI examinations in children
Dr. Sándor Erdős

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is often stressful for children as they must lie still in an unfamiliar, narrow machine for a long period of time. As a result, achieving high-quality images often requires general anesthesia, which comes with associated risks and can be costly due to the need for specialized staff and equipment. Previous studies have shown that educating children about the procedure can reduce anxiety levels and the need for anesthesia. Virtual reality (VR) technology introduced in such preparations could open up new possibilities, providing an immersive environment that creates a sense of presence.
Our research aims to reduce the number of children requiring anesthesia and measure psychological variables (fear, distress, awareness, mood) for MRI examinations using a VR experience designed to prepare them for the procedure.
In our randomized controlled trial, children aged 4-18 scheduled for MRI examinations under general anesthesia are randomized into three conditions: VR experience, informational booklet, and passive control. During the VR experience, the examination room is presented playfully, followed by an experience based on acceptance and commitment therapy. In the educational booklet condition, children are presented with a brochure. The passive control group receives standard care. Before the intervention and before and after the examination, we measure children's and parents' levels of fear, distress, mood, and awareness using visual analog scales. Furthermore, we record the duration of anesthesia and the drugs and dosages used.
The data collection phase of the study began on November 2, 2023. So far, we have screened 267 children, of which 71 were deemed eligible, and 55 agreed to participate in the study. Initial experiences suggest that VR technology has been positively received by children, their parents, and healthcare staff, with no significant adverse effects observed.
Based on our results, VR-based preparation could become part of everyday healthcare practice, reducing the need for general anesthesia and associated healthcare risks and costs.
The research is supported by the New National Excellence Program (UNKP-23-3-II-SE-86), the Ministry of Culture and Innovation, and the National Research, Development, and Innovation Office.